Weisman expansion delayed

Scheduling conflicts have delayed the museum’s planned expansion.

Kelly Gulbrandson

The Weisman Art Museum’s expansion project – like a good piece of art – will take a while to be completed.

The addition, originally expected to break ground at the end of 2007, has been delayed. Weisman spokesman Christopher James said the project could be pushed back until the end of 2008.

Despite a lawsuit against the Weisman’s architect, Frank Gehry, regarding a project he did at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James said scheduling conflicts with both the University and Frank Gehry’s office were the main reasons for the delay.

“The University has been working out the details with Frank Gehry, and the process is just taking longer than we expected,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a moving target any time you are doing a big building project like this because there are so many details that need to be worked out.”

Museum director and chief curator Lyndel King said she is not too surprised about the delay.

“These things happen,” she said. “We hoped to have started earlier but it just wasn’t possible.”

The Weisman is the first museum that Gehry completed, and is a chance for him to add on to his project.

With the museum being one of the most recognizable buildings in the Twin Cities, King said she is not worried about the expansion hurting its status.

“If anything, I think it will increase the museum’s status,” she said. “It’s so rare for an architect to be able to add on to one of their projects.”

While the public plan for the expansion was released last March, King said the museum has been working on it for about five years.

The basic concept for the 11,000-square-foot expansion remains the same, she said, and includes a new café, balcony and exhibits featuring Andy Warhol, among others.

But Weisman officials aren’t standing around waiting as a result of the building delay. King said she is working on fundraising and finalizing design plans.

“It’s kind of like a chicken-and-the-egg thing,” she said. “You can’t get the designs completed without money, and you can’t get money without designs.”

King said she sees the museum as a sculpture that would be difficult for another architect to complete, which is another reason Gehry was contacted to do the expansion.

Art senior Dustin Nelson said although he went to the museum for the Bob Dylan exhibit, he doesn’t go there often. He said he goes to the Regis Center for Art more because it has a more open space for students.

Nelson said he likes the layout of the Weisman, but would like a new student space.

“I don’t think spending a lot of money on renovating the museum is necessary, because it’s fine the way it is,” he said.

James said museum staff hopes to have more detailed design plans for the expansion by this summer.