Woodmere Art Museum seeks grant for new sculpture garden and landscape improvements

In an unanimous vote, the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) agreed to write a letter of endorsement as part of the Woodmere Art Museum’s grant application for landscape improvements, including a destination sculpture garden on its grounds.

The museum’s proposed upgrades mean “nothing but good things for Chestnut Hill,” stated CHCA Board member, Richard Snowden.

Woodmere is seeking funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to both beautify and restore its six-acre estate. If awarded, the grant money would be used to fund three projects.

World-class sculpture garden

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The most visual of the proposed improvements would be a a “world-class destination” sculpture garden. The garden would include a redesign of the pedestrian access with walking paths, lighting, signage and patron seating.

“The idea here is that it would be more inviting and pleasing and really make it something that grabs people’s eyes,” noted Pamela Loos, the museum’s director of foundation and government relations.

A significant element of the new sculpture garden will be the large copper and bronze fountain, “Waves”, designed by Harry Bertoia and owned by the city. The public art work was originally installed in front of the now defunct Civic Center. It has since been languishing in the city’s police barracks and is in need of restoration, Loos said. The city has agreed to loan the fountain to Woodmere for inclusion in the proposed sculpture garden with a possible opportunity for future ownership.

Landscape engineering

Sculpture won’t be the only change to the museum’s landscape. Woodmere plans to use some of the grant money to enable the estate to adhere to the principals of the Wissahickon Watershed restoration. The museum will address storm water run-off through landscape engineering and by replacing existing parking lots and pathways with pervious surfaces. The museum will also remove invasive plant species on its grounds.

Estate restoration

Funds would also be used for restoration of the 19th century Charles Knox Smith estate. Woodmere intends to restore the estate’s kitchen, rose and cutting gardens. The property’s stone retaining walls will be repaired. Dead and dying trees on the grounds will be removed and replaced, some by grafting old limbs so as to enable the historic trees to live on.

Woodmere also plans on rebuilding a 19th century stone stable to be used for educational programming. The museum currently serves 7,000 area school students.

Loos says she hopes the community sees Woodmere as an important and meaningful partner. “We’re experiencing an incredible revitalization,” she said.

Other Business

The board also voted to approve the special exception for Bone Appetite, a local pet boutique, to permit grooming services and a self-serve washing station in the rear of the store. Unlike a use variance, the special exception would be tied to the current tenant and not to the building or future tenants.

Chairman of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) and former mayoral candidate, Sam Katz will be the guest speaker at the CHCA Annual Meeting on April 18. The event will be held at the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, 8855 Germantown Avenue, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Katz, the founder of History Making Productions, will be speaking about his documentary series, “Philadelphia, the Great Experiment”.

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