WILLIAMSTOWN - Having entered the final phase of its ambitious 10-year campus expansion project (which includes new structures, renovations to existing structures, and landscaping) The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has released a study forecasting the project's local economic impact. The study, commissioned by the Clark and conducted by the Boston-based Economic Development Research Group, anticipates the creation of 523 construction-related jobs (327 in Massachusetts), with an in-state labor income of $20.7 million. In the metro Albany region, 196 new jobs are expected, with a labor income of $12.9 million. Massachusetts state tax revenues are expected to increase by $992,000 per year during the construction phase of the project, and $529,000 per year after the project is completed in 2014. "We are confident that the visitor experience we are creating on our campus will further distinguish the Berkshires as a unique destination where great natural beauty is enhanced by exceptional cultural offerings," said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. Ten-years ago the Clark had only a general idea of what the new campus would look like, and has since worked closely with Japanese architect Tadao Ando (who also designed the museum's Stone Hill Center), the New York-based Selldorf Architects and Reed Hilderbrand Associates, Inc. in Watertown, Mass. to create a plan that would meet the museum's design standards and programming goals. A central theme of the project is to
better integrate the museum campus with its natural surroundings, where footpaths and views of the Berkshires are just a short walk from the museum. An entrance pavilion, 1.5 acre reflecting pool, outdoor patios and more easily accessible footpaths will draw visitors' attention to the outdoors and invite them to explore. The Visitor, Exhibition and Conference Center will be Ando's third building in the United States, and reflects his mastery of the interface between nature and architecture. Ando and Hilderbrand worked together on the landscaping portion of the project. "It clearly is a building that is not about just a building, but about the experience of a whole campus," said Conforti. In addition to widening the campus experience, elements of the landscape design will contribute to the Clark's efforts toward sustainability. The reflecting pool, which will act as a self-sustaining reservoir, and a rooftop rainwater collection system will harvest water for use in plumbing and irrigation, reducing the museum's potable water usage by fifty percent. Runoff and effluent will be detained and treated by constructed wetlands, rain gardens and infiltration meadows before entering existing bodies of water. Coinciding with the impact study, the recently completed, three-year phase of the project includes a woodshop, a specialized shipping facility, boiler and air conditioning systems, a greatly expanded kitchen, and an indoor, climate-controlled loading dock (something the museum has long coveted). Most of the project is underground, so as to preserve the intimacy of the museum experience. Despite the higher cost of such a project, Conforti said, "We wanted it to be appropriate for the scale of the Clark as people know and love it and for the scale of the residential neighborhood." The new parking lot will be farther away from the museum buildings, but no farther than the parking lots are at Tanglewood or at the Norman Rockwell Museum, two of the Berkshires' other key attractions, said Conforti. (With around 200,000 visitors per year, The Clark is the second largest cultural attraction in the Berkshires, after Tanglewood.) In addition to job creation, increased labor income and higher tax revenues, the study anticipates a boost in tourism throughout the Berkshires, due to the Clark's enhanced programs and campus improvements, and expects sustained job growth in retail, lodging and other tourism-related industries. "The power of arts organizations to drive economic growth is clearly demonstrated by these findings," Conforti said. "Working together with our partners in other arts and civic organizations, we are committed to fostering the continued growth of the region's creative economy." Next week The Advocate will take a closer look at the Clark's s new underground facilities and what they entail for future programming.