The Gregg, temporarily a 'museum without walls,' picks its spots

dmenconi@newsobserver.comDecember 14, 2013 

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    About the exhibit

    The Gregg Museum of Art & Design’s “And With This Shell, The Sea: The Ceramic Art of Siglinda Scarpa” is on display through Jan. 31 at N.C. State University’s Historic Chancellor’s Residence, 1903 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Hours are by appointment during weekday business hours, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free. Call 919-513-7244 or email gregg@ncsu.edu. For details, see ncsu.edu/gregg. For more on the Gregg expansion project, see newgregg.ncsu.edu.

— “And With This Shell, The Sea” is on display through January at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design.

Sort of.

In many ways, it’s a typical Gregg show, just like the ones the museum did in its former home at N.C. State University’s Talley Student Center – a collection of 57 pieces by Pittsboro ceramicist Siglinda Scarpa. The venue, however, is a bit more out of the ordinary.

“And With This Shell” can be viewed by appointment at a house the Gregg staff calls “1903.” That’s better-known as the Historic Chancellor’s Residence, at 1903 Hillsborough St. on the eastern edge of the N.C. State campus.

Ever since N.C. State chancellor William R. Woodson’s new residence opened on Centennial Campus in 2011, the former chancellor’s house has been in transitional limbo. But a process is underway that will eventually transform 1903 into a permanent home for the Gregg with the addition of nearly 16,000 square feet of gallery, storage and classroom space.

When built, the Gregg’s expanded gallery will stand adjacent to 1903 (which will serve as office space and auxiliary gallery). With Pullen Arts Center and Theatre in the Park nearby, the new Gregg will anchor what university officials hope becomes a budding arts campus.

“The College of Design and College of Humanities are both nearby, too, so a lot of arts-related stuff is already in that corner,” said Gregg director Roger Manley. “The fact that it’s on the edge of campus, surrounded by the city on three sides, is good for access. As long as we were embedded in Talley in the middle of campus, parking for non-students was almost impossible. Now we’ll be more like a museum for the city.”

Money still needed

Before any of this can happen, however, the finances have to come together. As designed by noted architect Phil Freelon (a 1975 N.C. State graduate), the project will cost about $8 million to build. N.C. State has already committed $3.85 million and the city of Raleigh $250,000.

The other $3.9 million will come from private donations, of which about $2.3 million has been raised so far. That leaves another $1.6 million or so still to go. The Gregg has also applied for a grant from the Wake County hotel tax fund.

“The fundraising is going well,” said Alex Miller, vice provost for Arts NC State. “We still have additional work to do, but we’ll get there.”

Once all the financing is set, construction will take about 18 months. If all goes according to plan, the new Gregg’s grand opening should happen in early 2016.

Meantime, the Gregg has been a “Museum Without Walls” since May, when it was displaced during Talley Student Center’s ongoing $120 million renovation. With some of its operations happening at 1903 and its main offices moved to a building near J.C. Raulston Arboretum several miles away (a space that is also temporarily warehousing the museum’s 25,000-item permanent collection), the Gregg is now more of an idea than a physical place and will stay that way for several more years at least.

“Right now we’re doing shows in different places,” said Manley. “The Siglinda show is at 1903, there’s another on African-American textiles at the African-American Cultural Center in the Witherspoon Student Center. We’re doing a show at Meredith College in the spring. Probably another at D.H. Hill Library. And we’re looking into a show having to do with math and computer stuff at SASS Hall for physical and mathematical sciences.”

‘A no-brainer’

N.C. State’s arts establishment has had 1903 on its radar for more than seven years, since word first came down about plans to build a new chancellor’s residence on Centennial Campus. That created a vacancy at the Historic Chancellor’s Residence, an elegant Georgian-style home that originally opened in 1928.

With Talley’s renovation already on the horizon, the Gregg was in the market for a new location. The museum had been upstairs at Talley since 2006, a situation that was less than ideal. Parking was difficult for nonstudents and the Gregg also had to keep university hours, which meant closing down during school breaks.

Still, Talley’s initial renovation plan called for putting the Gregg on the ground floor. That became impossible when the plan changed to accommodate moving the university bookstore into that ground-floor space. After surveying more than a dozen possible sites around campus, the Freelon group concluded that the best spot for a new Gregg was the Historic Chancellor’s Residence – which also happened to be the cheapest place to put it.

“That sort of turned it into a no-brainer,” said Manley.

Along with the gallery space, the Gregg expansion will add 60 parking spots, classroom spaces, a sculpture garden and lots of event options – including renting it out for weddings. After the hotel is built on the Bell Tower block across Hillsborough Street, there will be about 400 hotel rooms in the immediate vicinity.

“There’s so much more we’ll be able to do,” Manley said. “Concerts out front, performances in the backyard, outdoor screenings and workshops. This will be a gift to the city of Raleigh and a big draw. When students ride in on buses from across the state to go to the capitol, History Museum, Science Museum, N.C. Museum of Art, we’ll be another place to stop. We hope to get more younger kids.”

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or newsobserver.com/onthebeat

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