Gregg Museum stakes a claim to its future home

CorrespondentOctober 27, 2012 

  • Want to go? What: “Art Outside The Box” – Arts festival and preview of the new Gregg Museum of Art & Design Where: The old chancellor’s residence building on N.C. State campus, corner of Hillsborough Street and Pullen Road, Raleigh When: Noon-4 p.m. Sunday Cost: Free Info: 919-513-1800 or ncsu.edu/gregg

N.C. State’s art museum is on the move.

The Gregg Museum of Art and Design, and its collection of more than 26,000 objects, has been growing for more than 40 years. But its location has never been ideal.

Situated inside the busy Talley Student Center, the Gregg has long struggled with issues of exhibit space, parking and an awkward fit in the middle of campus.

But the Gregg is headed for a handsome new home – the former chancellor’s residence on Hillsborough Street, built in 1928. Vacated recently after construction of a new chancellor’s residence on the Centennial Campus, the older building is a perfect spot for the new museum, said Gregg director Roger Manley.

“This whole thing is like a harmonic convergence in a way,” Manley said.

“At the same time the chancellor’s building came available, plans were announced to renovate the Talley Student Center.”

Museum officials looked at 12 other possible spots on campus, but concluded the old chancellor’s residence was the best option.

“When all is said and done, it not only proved to be the cheapest option, but also the best in a lot of other ways,” Manley said. “It extends out onto the community – right at the tip of Pullen Park and right on Hillsborough Street.”

The building will be renovated to bring it up to code as a permanent public access facility.

In addition, plans call for a new 15,000 square-foot contemporary wing for galleries and classrooms.

“For decades, really, that whole area has been kind of hidden behind these big hedges,” Manley said. “Just in the last couple weeks, we finally trimmed up some of those hedges so you can actually see the building. A lot of people didn’t even know it was there.”

Join the celebration

To help get the word out, the Gregg is hosting a special event on Sunday, “Art Outside the Box,” from noon to 4 p.m. in and around the old chancellor’s residence.

Several small exhibits have already been installed, and plans for the future museum will be on display.

Visitors can create their own art with potters, painters, woodworkers, jewelers and origami artists on site. Free food will be provided from local partners including Flying Biscuit, Irregardless Cafe, the Mount Olive Pickle Company and Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern.

Several local musicians will perform as well. The lineup will deliver an array of music in line with the museum’s eclectic spirit – beach, Motown, jazz, bluegrass, Celtic and a Japanese flute trio.

Also on hand will be renowned topiary artist and South Carolina native Pearl Fryer, subject of the documentary film “A Man Named Pearl,” which recently screened at the Gregg.

Manley said the event is designed to introduce people to plans for the new museum and to raise awareness of fundraising needs.

“The time frame for the new space is really dependent on fundraising,” Manley said. “We need to raise $7.5 million – half in hand and half pledged – before they will begin construction.”

So far, the museum has raised about $5.3 million, Manley said. Officials hope construction can begin within a year or so.

Nicole Peterson, director of arts development at N.C. State, said the event is not a fundraiser, although there will be some T-shirts and other museum items for sale.

“It’s really more of a ‘friendraiser,’ ” Peterson said. “The idea is to be inclusive, because so many people literally don’t know this space is here. We hope to get people to understand how important the new museum will be – not just to the campus, but to the city and state. The museum has always been here, and it’s always been free. Now it will be better and easier to get to.”

Sunday’s event aims to get the word out.

“The event is not exactly a groundbreaking, but more like when Christopher Columbus or Neil Armstrong planted their respective flags,” Manley said.

“In other words, we’re basically staking the territory and promising to return.”

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