By Carey Restino
The Pratt Museum’s plans to rebuild got a $250,000 boost last week when Gov. Sean Parnell signed the bill authorizing the capital project funds, but the funds are far from the $2.8 million requested for the project.
While the museum acknowledged that the appropriation is less than requested, the organization said the appropriation shows the state has confidence in the project.
The museum’s efforts to acquire state funding were boosted by the city of Homer’s placement of the project at No. 4 on its Capital ImprovementList. But when the funding request left the Senate and was passed to the House, it was unfunded. So when the House inserted the $250,000 into the budget, the museum fundraisers were happy about it, said Michele Miller, development director for the museum. While the museum would have preferred to get the state funding request in one chunk, other projects, such as the state museum’s capital campaign, are competing for the funds. With next year’s state budget anticipated to be tighter than this year’s, the museum is considering using a lobbyist to promote its cause next year.
“We would have preferred to get the funding in one piece, but we’ll keep plugging away at it,” Miller said. “We were grateful to get the $250,000.”
Miller said supporters of the museum can advocate for the project with the city of Homer, which is currently developing its Capital Improvement List for next year. She said the museum’s impact on society strikes a chord with many in the Legislature.
“We are a nationally recognized museum and that brings a lot of pride to the state,” she said. “There are legislators who don’t believe in supporting arts and culture, but there are plenty that do. Certainly roads and public safety are high on the list, but there’s room for funding museums as well.”
The Pratt Museum, which is currently located in a 10,500-square-foot building, has been working on its expansion plans for more than a decade, switching gears to the construction of a new building when it was determined a new building would be less expensive than renovating the current space. The total cost of the new museum is expected to be $9.5 million, $3 million less than the estimated cost of renovating the existing space.
The project is now in the design phase, with Livingston Slone of Anchorage doing the design work.
The museum plans to construct a 13,000-square-foot new building behind the current location of the museum, with expanded gallery space as well as a dedicated space for education programs and community gatherings. The new space would also address some issues with the storage of the museum’s current collections. State of the art temperature and humidity controls, as well as space for research, collections conservation and exhibit preparation would round out the collections area.
The project is currently in the fundraising and exhibit planning stage, with a public campaign to begin when roughly 80 to 85 percent of the $9.5 million is raised. Currently, the campaign is focusing on leadership gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations, and organizers say while there is still a substantial amount of work to be done, the campaign is on track, receiving positive support from key foundations and individuals.
Miller said community members have been asking about when the public fundraising effort will begin, and said ideally it will start next year, but it will be dependent on how government and private donation levels proceed.
Museum Director Diane Converse said the Pratt is grateful to the state delegation, notably Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, for its efforts to include the Pratt Museum in the capital budget bill.
“And thank you to our local city council and mayor for having the vision to place the Pratt’s capital project high on the Capital Improvement Plan list last year,” Converse said.
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