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DOYLESTOWN, PA-The James A. Michener Art Museum has raised $8.4 million for the $10-million expansion of its main location here. The entire plan will be implemented in two phases, starting with the addition of a 5,000-sf exhibition wing, followed by a new 3,267-sf event space over the sculpture garden along with conversion of an existing pavilion into an educational complex and new climate-control systems throughout.

The upper-level gallery of the new wing provides space for “major nationally touring exhibitions, which we have not been able to accommodate,” Carol Nelson, director of advancement for the museum, tells GlobeSt.com. The lower level expands the museum’s curatorial and administrative space and also enhances art storage, preparation and handling capabilities, she says. This phase of the project will begin in March or April of 2008 and is expected to open in summer 2009.

The second phase is slated to begin in spring 2009 for a fall 2009 opening. The new all-glass event addition will cover the patio area of the Patricia D. Pfundt sculpture garden and provide space for public programs and private events. Conversion of the Ann and Herman Silverman Pavilion will include two classrooms, an orientation gallery, an enlarged museum shop, café and children’s gallery.

Barbara Hillier, a principal of Philadelphia-based RMJM Hillier Architecture, has designed the plans. Hillier is from Bucks County, Nelson says, making her participation “especially appropriate and also fortunate for the museum.”

A $3-million challenge grant from the commonwealth gave the project a jump-start. The remainder of the funding is from donations by foundations, corporations and individuals, including the museum’s 24-member board of trustees, “who have been very generous,” says Nelson.

The museum, located at 138 S. Pine St., also operates a satellite unit at 500 Union Square Dr. in nearby New Hope. It is named after the late Pulitzer Prize-wining author James A. Michener, who was raised here, graduated from Doylestown High School and taught at the George School in Newtown in the 1930s. Among his most notable novels are “Centennial,” “Hawaii,” “Chesapeake,” and “Tales of the South Pacific.” The museum features American art with a focus on the artistic heritage of the Bucks County region.

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