A year ago, about 850 people attended a grand reopening following the $38 million expansion and renovation of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.
On Oct. 22, the museum will mark the accomplishments of the intervening year with a Big Art Party.
There’s plenty to celebrate, says Judith O’Toole, the museum’s Richard M. Scaife director and CEO.
“The first thing is that we’ve managed to get through all four seasons in Western Pennsylvania with no problems,” O’Toole says. “All the systems, like heating and air conditioning, have been adjusted to museum standards. The building has just been LEED Silver-certified, too.
“You never know if a new building is going to work as you thought it would, and it didn’t,” she says. “But we’ve tweaked it to be better than we thought it would be. In buildings that have been added onto, you can often tell where the old and new come together. We’ve had many positive comments on the seamless flow of traffic through the galleries.”
Nuts and bolts aside, O’Toole says, “There’s been a huge community outpouring of celebration and gratitude for the new facility and how beautiful it is and how stunning the gardens are.”
Part of the strategic planning for the expansion was to increase use of the museum as a community center, and that is coming to pass, O’Toole says.
“We’ve had many outside groups coming in to use it; and that was one of the biggest things, that it would be a community center not just for our local community, but radiating out from Greensburg to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.”
Museum staffers have noticed activity around the facility after closing hours, too. Many local students are using the facade as a backdrop for their senior portraits.
“Obviously, that has nothing to do with the art,” O’Toole says. “They’re coming because it’s a beautiful building.”
Guests at the Big Art Party will have a chance to look at the building’s bones because it is scheduled to occur between exhibitions.
“The main party will be in the cantilevered gallery,” O’Toole says. “It will be devoid of art, but it will be filled with great music, interactive art projects and other interesting things going on.”
Suggested attire for the festivities, which will include food and drink, a silent disco and a dance party with Pittsburgh band LoveBettie, is “big, bold and bright.”
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or [email protected].