Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

September 5, 2013 at 2:38pm

Words & Photos: Tacoma Art Museum expansion groundbreaking

This morning Gov. Inslee, Congressman Kilmer, Sen. Darneille, Mayor Strickland, Stephanie Stebich and others raised a new wing at the Tacoma Art Museum.

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The electricity in the air in downtown Tacoma this morning wasn't the result of an earlier thunder and lightning storm.

Instead, with the smell of fresh rain permeating the air, the grounds of the Tacoma Art Museum became a Western wonderland. Bales of hay, lassos and soulful Western music, along with folks clad in bandanas, cowboy hats, boots and shiny brass belt buckles were just some of the sights. Why?

The Tacoma Art Museum was celebrating the groundbreaking of a new museum expansion that will go down in the history books. This, however, was no ordinary ceremony with hardhats and shovels.

The Tacoma Art Museum announced a major donation by Erivan and Helga Haub and family of 280 major works of American Western art, along with endowment funds for the care of the collection and funds for a 16,000-square-foot museum expansion and building renovation. The new wing will provide 50 percent more gallery space overall. Award-winning and renowned Seattle-based architectural firm Olson Kundig Architects has been selected to design the expansion and renovation project.

The donation is noteworthy on many different levels. The collection captures the essence of the American West and dates from the 1820s to the present day. The new wing will take the Tacoma Art Museum to a new level, making it one of the leading museums in the country that features American Western art.

According to a recent museum press release, the collection includes works from significant historic Western painters such as grand manner landscape painters Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran; titans of the Western genre Frederic Remington and Charles Russell; and works by artists such as E. Martin Hennings and Ernest Blumenschein. The collection also contains works by notable modernist painters, including Georgia O'Keeffe, as well as more contemporary artists such as John Clymer, Tom Lovell, Bill Schenck and Clyde Aspevig.

Work on the project will begin in late October with an expected completion date in the fall of 2014. The museum's expansion integrates with other local civic projects. Thanks to grants and other generous donations, the expansion marks the extraordinary partnership of public and private interests in making the project a reality.

Originally from Germany, Ervian and Helga Haub own The Tengelmann Group, an international company with diversified retail and investment operations in Europe and North America. The Haubs have both personal and business connections with the Pacific Northwest.

The couple's son, Christian Haub, along with his wife, Liliane, are leading the project on behalf of their family. They speak with a great passion about being connected to the local community, Tacoma in particular.

"My family has a long history here in Tacoma," Christian said. "My father came here in the 1950s and fell in love with the area. In 1958, he returned with his bride, who too, saw that this was a really great place."

The Haubs decided to have all their sons born here, right in Tacoma, to have a permanent connection to the place. Though the children grew up in Germany, summers were spent in Tacoma, and the family sought every opportunity to return as often as possible.

In addition to their love of the South Sound, The Haubs developed a love, passion and inspiration for American Western art. They began developing their extraordinary collection in 1984.

Today's groundbreaking ceremony paid homage to the Haub family and all of the other entities that made the expansion a reality. The ceremony began with a poignant blessing and performance from the Puyallup Indian Tribe. Dignitaries included Steve Barger, Tacoma Art Museum Board president; Congressmen Derek Kilmer; Gov. Jay Inslee; Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland; Christian Haub; and Stephanie Stebich, Tacoma Art Museum director.

The remarks from the special guests echoed a similar theme of gratitude, teamwork, pride and an eye to the future.

Barger enthusiastically thanked the Haub family, those responsible for the grants funding, the city of Tacoma and all of the major donors and sponsors.

"This is truly a gift to be enjoyed by us and generations to come," he said.

Kilmer encouraged everyone present to celebrate the valuable role of the arts and the revitalization of the city.

"There has been an extraordinary investment in this city that adds to its vibrancy and makes it a great place to live and work," he said.

Inslee, delighted to be in Tacoma on this special day, noted that the celebration of recognizing the American West helps to unlock the power of art to inspire children and their families and promote a positive economic impact to the area.

"Art is beauty and truth, but it is also one of the great economic engines of our state," he said. "We need to remind people of that."

Strickland graciously thanked the Haubs, the public and private entities that helped, and the citizens of Tacoma who made the museum a part of their lives and families.

Stebich described the warm relationship the museum has with the Haub family, noting that they have been advocates for the project for the last 18 months along with trustees, members, artists, volunteers, staff, donors, elected officials and proud Tacomans.

"The new wing will be glorious," she said with a smile.

Instead of the traditional groundbreaking, the ceremony concluded with a barn raising in which dignitaries raised two life-size replicas of the featured artwork, Charles Bird King's "Wanata (The Charger), Grand Chief of the Sioux," and Thomas Moran's "Green River, Wyoming."

A fitting end for a historic Western-inspired day.

LINK: More photos from the Tacoma Art Museum Haub Wing groundbreaking ceremony

Filed under: Arts, Community, Tacoma,
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