The Frick Art & Historical Center, the legacy of philanthropist Helen Clay Frick, will celebrate the completion of a $15 million expansion and renovation project that came in under budget and ahead of schedule with a grand opening this weekend.
The project doubled the size of the Car and Carriage Museum, which opened to the public in 1997 and which houses the Frick family’s collection of vehicles. A new Education Center and an expansive new community center also were added.
Frick director Robin Nicholson says the project was the most ambitious in its history and works toward the goal of redefining the museum.
The design by Pittsburgh architects Loysen + Kreuthmeier and Boston architects Schwartz/Silver and Associates completely overhauled the display area of the antique car and carriage collection, with gleaming white tiles that create a light airy space, and higher ceilings that make the room feel less like a garage and more like a true museum display area. Two dozen vehicles can be displayed in the new, 7,900-square-foot space.
The layout of the buildings and high transparency glass windows offer views of the entire campus at once, with each building giving a different perspective. The construction of a new Visitor Center, which opened in the summer of 2014, was the first phase of the expansion project.
The Grable Visitor Center, which is now the first building guests enter from the Frick parking area, houses the gift shop, a ticket desk with giant screens displaying the day’s exhibits, and interactive multimedia features. iPads with a custom app that includes details about the exhibits line one counter in the visitors’ center.
There also are two large tabletop displays with massive touch screens that allow users to drag and drop digital boxes that contain information organized by collection. And of course, there are shelves lined with books for those who prefer a less high-tech experience.
The renovation also added a 1,000-square-foot community room which can be used for meetings, rental events and educational programming. It has an adjacent outdoor terrace and a catering kitchen. The terrace is one of two new outdoor spaces on the grounds, which added about 5,000 square feet of lawn, including a patio facing South Homewood Street. The patio is particularly striking at night, due to its constellation lighting. And a new education center (with an elevator, a first for the Frick grounds) has three classrooms suitable for kids’ and adults’ programming, with listening devices, 80-inch touch screens and stain-resistant flooring.
All told the Frick expanded its space by about 30 percent, including some that will go largely unseen by the public. Sarah Hall, director of curatorial affairs proudly showed off the climate-controlled storage area, which gives space to the more than 11,000 objects that are part of the assorted Frick collections.
The Frick has exceeded its original $15 million campaign fundraising goal by raising $16.1 million to date.
Funding for the expansion came from a variety of sources, including $3 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, $3 million from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program; $1 million from The Heinz Endowments and $750,000 from the Allegheny Foundation. The Grable Foundation provided $1 million to help launch the campaign. In addition, the Burke Foundations gave a $1.5 million challenge grant, matched by gifts from members of the Frick Board of Trustees.
The opening day celebration will be Nov. 21st from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Frick Art & Historical Center website.