Stark Foundation breaks ground for new wing at Stark Museum

Published 9:09 am Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation broke ground, on Thursday, on a new addition to downtown Orange, the Stark Museum Library and Archive and Art Education Wing. The 15,000 square foot building will be located on 6th Street between Green Avenue and W. Elm Avenue and is estimated to cost between $7 and $8 million.

The Groundbreaking participants included Rob Clark – Vice President, Architectural Alliance, Laurence R. David – Chairman, Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, Trina Nelson Thomas – Director, Stark Art and History Venues, Walter G. Riedel, III – President/CEO, Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, Jerry Vandervoort- Project Executive, SpawGlass Corporation, Kenneth Eberling – Area Manager, Honeywell Building Solutions, and Gus Harris – Chief Properties Officer, Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation.

The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation provides a long history of service to the Orange County and Southeast Texas community. The two-story addition to the Stark Museum of Art grounds illustrates the Foundation’s on-going commitment to service and education through preserving and sharing art and history.

The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation Board of Directors and Advisory Members were also present and included, (pictured from left to right) Clyde V. McKee, III, Rob Clark, Dr. Stephen Patterson, Al Granger, James R. Dunaway, David Jones, R. Frederick Gregory, M.D., Debbie Hughes, Laurence R. David. Board member Ruby Wimberley was unable to attend.

Others present included representatives of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as Ida Schossow, President, Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. Also in attendance were Jimmy Sims, Mayor of Orange; Roy McDonald, Mayor of West Orange,Dr. Shawn Oubre, City Manager of Orange, Johnny Trahan, Entergy, Ricky Harris, Superintendent, West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, and other supportive Orange area citizens.

The staff of the Stark Art and History Venues was present along with many other Stark Foundation employees.

“The focus of the story was an announcement by W.H. Stark that he was building a handsome, modern, fireproof building on Front Street. It stands today and is in use by the Foundation,” Walter G. Riedel, III said referring to an article from The Orange Leader newspaper in 1910 that spoke of the city’s progress. “Here we are 105 years later to make a similar announcement. Today we continue the legacy of our founders, by breaking ground for a handsome, modern, and fireproof addition to the Stark Museum of Art. In addition to the descriptive adjectives W.H. Stark used for his building, I must add that our building is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.”

He went on to say, “The addition will house the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library and Archive and Art Education Wing of the Stark Museum. The first floor of the addition will allow two studio classes to take place at one time, include much needed office space for our growing education staff, and offer visitors of all ages the creative space to explore their inner artist. This year the Stark Museum has reached more than 18,000 visitors, 13,000 of which were served through educational programs, and our school programs have grown by 31-percent! Students from all of Orange County, and much of Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana have the opportunity to learn about the world-class works of art in the Museum collection and experience the hands-on process of creating art.

The second floor, housing The Eunice R. Benckenstein Library and Archive, will provide the controlled environment needed to preserve our collection of historic documents and objects well into the future. It will facilitate scholarly research related to our collections, family history, and our community. Among other things, the Archive holds early Stark Family papers from the Civil War, and correspondence between Henry Jacob Lutcher and his business partner, G. Bedell Moore as they formed and built the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Company into one of the largest lumber companies in the region.”

In closing, Riedel expressed his hope that the efforts today ensure the legacy of the Stark Foundation’s founders, Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark, and will continue to enrich the community through art and education leading the city’s progress now and into the future.

Stark Museum of Art Curator of Education, Jennifer Restauri stated, “We are particularly thrilled at the addition of two designated studio spaces in the new building that will allow educators to run simultaneous classes, providing both public and school programs during regular hours. We are also excited to add a multi-functional kiln to our facilities, allowing our studio programming to expand to include ceramic and glass processes.

Our new space will provide the public with a designated education space, including studios and a public program space for lectures and films, as well as a new community gallery that will allow regular exhibitions of student and local artworks.”

“Some people know they like art.  Other people haven’t figured out they like art quite yet.  The Stark Museum of Art is for both kinds of folks.  I personally love the juxtaposition of museum art collections and community made art.  We are excited to have a designated education wing for people to explore, experience, and engage in art in a safe, judgment free space. It will be a wonderful compliment to the SMA permanent and changing exhibition galleries.” expressedTrina Nelson Thomas, Director, Stark Art and History Venues.

She also conveyed that staff is excited to keep the community apprised of progress on the addition and the wide range of art and history experiences they can participate in once the facility is open.