Carnegie Science Center just got its biggest gift ever
Carnegie Science Center has received a $7.5 million gift from PPG Industries and its corporate foundation — the largest single donation in the nonprofit’s 36-year history, officials announced Wednesday.
Pittsburgh’s most-visited museum is pumping a total of $45.9 million into a 48,000-square-foot expansion that museum officials say will draw world-renowned exhibits that no institution in the city has the capacity to host.
The four-floor addition further will enable the center to grow its children’s programs related to STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math.
Officials from PPG, which supplies paints, coatings and fiber glass worldwide, said they chose to make such a hefty investment because the expansion aligns with the company’s goal of strengthening Western Pennsylvania’s workforce in STEM-related fields. David Bem, chief technology officer and vice president of science and technology at PPG, sits on the board for Carnegie Science Center.
Between its global headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh and a research hub in Hampton, PPG employs more than 2,500 people in the region — including many scientists, engineers and physicists, noted Bryan Iams, PPG’s vice president of corporate and government affairs.
“Looking and trying to attract and retain top STEM talent is a huge focus of our corporation,” Iams said.
The new wing will be named PPG Science Pavilion for at least 20 years, with the naming rights paid for by a $2.5 million contribution from PPG Industries. PPG Foundation gave about $5 million. The announcement follows PPG’s acquisition of the naming rights to the home of the Penguins, PPG Paints Arena, in October .
“This is another step for our brand as well,” Iams said.
— Natasha Lindstrom (@NewsNatasha) June 28, 2017
The expansion will enable Carnegie Science Center to showcase “blockbuster” exhibits that have the potential to increase attendance by 50 percent — up to more than 750,000 people a year, said Ann Metzger, co-director of the center.
Up first: A popular traveling exhibit “The Art of the Brick” featuring the Lego-based art of Nathan Sawaya. It will debut at the same time as the center opens next June.
The PPG Science Pavilion will wrap around a portion of the science center’s semi-circle facade along the Ohio River. It will include a two-story, 14,000-square-foot exhibition space, learning labs and conference venue with panoramic views of the Downtown skyline.
Upgrades also include trail-friendly improvements to the stretch of riverfront bordering its building between Heinz Field and Rivers Casino.
Funding for the Science Pavilion’s construction and programming comes from a fundraising effort that began in late 2014, dubbed “SPARK! A Campaign for Carnegie Science Center.”
The funding boom follows seven years of balanced or surplus budgets and modest upticks in attendance at the science museum, co-director Ron Baillie said. The center logged more than 500,000 visits last year, and reached more than 170,000 students and teachers through educational outreach.
Carnegie Science Center has a roughly $14 million budget and 200 employees.
The top floor of the PPG Science Pavilion and its 1,600-square-foot outdoor terrace will increase opportunities to make money from conferences and events. The center already gets about 65 percent of its support through earned revenue, Baillie said.
The center’s roots date to 1981 in a different building, under the predecessor organization, Buhl Science Center. The North Shore location opened in 1991.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.
is a former freelancer.