Renovated Allentown museum reopens with dazzling new space

Construction of newly expanded galleries is nearly complete, and the Allentown Art Museum will open to the public Sunday.

The downtown institution has been closed for a year to undergo renovations.

Designed by renowned Philadelphia architects Venturi Scott Brown and Associates, the new construction is a contrast of an original 1901 neoclassical church portico, and an adjacent wall of glass abutting the sidewalk.

Penned in by a dense downtown grid, near Allentown’s Arts Park, the museum managed to gain almost 10,000 square feet, half of which is new gallery space.

“The building has been expanded to the sidewalk, with considerable new space,” said museum CEO and president Brooks Joiner. “A two-story glass and steel elevation, which allows great light to flow into the front of house. It used to be dark and very sedate. It now is brilliant, and you have a view almost like you’re on a cruise ship, looking out over the Arts Park.”

The new construction is the result of a $20.4 million fundraising campaign. About $15 million was used for the building; the remainder was added to the museum’s endowment.

During the museum’s year-long down time, some of its collection was loaned out and exhibited in several locations including Lehigh University, Lafayette College, the Lehigh County Courthouse, and the Museum of Industry in Bethlehem.

“We’re doing a lot more collaborations,” said Joiner. “We’re certainly going to work with the symphony and with the Baum school, because they share the Arts Park with us, and we are within a stone’s throw of both those organizations.”

The museum launches is new galleries with an exhibition of early European and Italian Renaissance paintings from the Kress Collection.

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