By Lucy Lazarony
Closed since June for renovations, the Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach will reopen in November for an exhibition called Looking Glass, which features artwork that incorporates reflection in the work, be it the reflection of the viewer or the space around the art piece.
Looking Glass is an opportunity to welcome back the public and show off the nearly $1 million in renovations to the museum’s interior. (The museum’s popular First Friday Art walks and its 6X6 Art Sale have been held in the Crest Theatre since the summer.)
The aim of the new design is to better showcase the museum’s contemporary art exhibitions while still honoring the historic nature of the building, a schoolhouse built in 1913.
“Great care has been taken with this renovation project to assure that the timeless charm of this historic schoolhouse melds with the function of a unique art museum,” says Rob Steele, president and chief executive officer of Old School Square. “We are confident the result will speak volumes without words.”
The museum’s distinctive two grand staircases and Dade County pine floors will remain in place. But the doors, lighting, window coverings and front and rear entrances are getting modern upgrades. Gallery lighting, in place since 1989, is being upgraded to meet current museum industry standards. And sleek, new window coverings will be added in each gallery.
The museum’s exhibit space will be maximized with movable walls to enable the museum to show a greater variety of artwork in the museum and a wider assortment of configurations within each gallery.
“It’s going to give us a lot more freedom,” says Melanie Johanson, the museum’s curator.
The front and rear doors will be expanded to double glass doors and allow for more space for loading artwork.
“The doors are going to be changed to all-glass doors, which will enhance the appearance of the front of the building and allow people to see in that something is going on,” says Marusca Gatto, director of operations for the museum.
And the museum’s store will be redesigned with new cabinetry and fixtures to better display the original artworks created by local, regional and national artists.
“We’re going to reimagine the store into a one-of-a-kind art gallery,” Gatto says. “The cabinetry is going to give us more flexibility than we previously had.”
There will also be a blackout AV room near the museum store for art talks and films.
The museum chose architect Gino De Santis of Designel in West Palm Beach, for the redesign and Steven W. Csutoros of SWC Building and Design, Inc. in Boca Raton as the project contractor.
“As far as I am concerned, it ended up being a dream team,” Steele says. “It turned out magical.”
Architect De Santis, whose previous projects include the Kravis Center, Palm Beach Dramaworks, Maltz Jupiter Theatre and Coral Springs Center for the Arts, says visitors can expect a new flow and openness in the museum when it reopens in the fall.
“There were all these little compartments around and now it works as one big fluid space,” De Santis explains.
Visitors will be able to gaze from one gallery to another with ease and the wood picket railing at the top of the staircase has been replaced with a glass railing, widening the second floor lobby space.
De Santis says visitors can expect “just the whole welcoming feeling from the minute you come through the door, and yet it maintains the charm of the old schoolhouse — all these spaces are going to be opened.”
Looking Glass is set to open Nov. 9, with a grand reopening celebration from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the night before.
With so much reflective artwork on display in Looking Glass, visitors will be able to a get a great look at all the changes at the Cornell and themselves.
“The whole point of choosing ‘Looking Glass’ to be the grand opening exhibition (is) we wanted people to realize the museum is for them,” Johanson says. “You’re going to an exhibit where you can see yourself in it, every piece has a reflective element. We want people to see themselves there. This is your museum, too. Selfies are encouraged.”
The renovations to the museum were made possible through the generous support of Margaret Blume, who called the Cornell “a little gem that is perfect for a short, but lovely, cultural experience in the heart of Delray Beach.”
Admission to the Cornell Art Museum is $8 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Members to Old School Square have free admission to the museum, as do veterans and children under the age of 12.
The museum’s new hours will be Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Delray Beach residents will receive free admission Sundays.
For more information, visit oldschoolsquare.org/about/cornell-museum/.