Pomona Presents New Art Museum Plan to City Residents

Pomona College will build a new art museum to replace the current museum, which is experiencing a lack of space and inadequte conditions to store art pieces.

Pomona College hosted a community meeting on Sept. 29 at Millikan Laboratory to discuss the progress on planning its new art museum. In attendance were various members of the campus and Claremont community, as well as speakers Pomona President David Oxtoby, Museum Director Kathleen Howe, master planner Scott Smith and architect Jeffrey Birchard.

The new museum is still in its early stages of development, but it will eventually replace Pomona’s current art museum. The museum’s supporters expect that it will be more conducive to hosting classes and special events as well as for housing traveling exhibitions and permanent collections.

“Effective learning in a museum happens when it is flexible enough, has the space, and provides the access to the collection that permits different modes of engagement,” Howe wrote in an email to TSL.

According to the presenters at the community meeting, the museum’s mission is to intellectually engage both students and members of the surrounding community through exhibitions, educational programs, and events. Howe said that the museum will possibly have seminar rooms to allow students to discuss and study works of art.

The Pomona College Museum of Art is located on the school’s south campus.

The new museum will be built on College Ave. at the current site of the Cottages, which serve as student residence halls, and Renwick House. A Victorian house built in 1900, Renwick House’s historical significance was a source of controversy at a community meeting regarding the museum in April 2014. The museum’s planners are considering moving the house to the north end of Pomona’s softball field.

At the meeting, Smith said that the site for the new museum was strategically chosen to be in line with Pomona’s Master Plan. Although alternative sites within the main campus were considered, Smith said that using those sites would hurt the campus’s aesthetic, prevent the museum from functioning as a larger cultural resource, and disrupt the campus’s porticos and walkways, which contribute to the college’s intimacy and accessibility.

During the meeting, Birchard, who works for the architecture firm Machado Silvetti, outlined some of the features planned for the museum, including multiple entrances and a public plaza in the front. The museum will feature a gallery wing visible to passersby and an open courtyard for hosting events. 47 trees will surround the museum.

Birchard also highlighted the site’s ideal location in Claremont’s ‘civic center,’ which includes City Hall, the Claremont Library, Shelton Park, the post office and Seaver House. 

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, community members brought up concerns over parking and the removal of potentially historically significant trees. Oxtoby responded that the college would consider implementing a two-hour parking limit for parking spaces in front of the museum, and Birchard said that an arborist would be hired to examine each tree with attention to its sustainability within Claremont’s natural environment.

“I’m really excited to see how students and faculty make use of the curricular galleries,” Howe said. “I think most of all, I want to be surprised and delighted by the ways that our students and faculty make it theirs, the programs and ideas that we haven’t even thought of yet.”

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