Sneak peeks at Reginald Lewis Museum

Sun architecture critic

Baltimore's newest museum won't officially open for several months, but ithas already received its first visitors.

AIA Maryland, a statewide affiliate of the American Institute ofArchitects, became the first group to hold an event at Baltimore's Reginald F.Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture when more than200 architects and their guests gathered for the group's annual meeting andawards banquet on Sept. 23.

Representatives from the Maryland General Assembly took a tour on Oct. 1,and the museum's own staff is expected to move in by early November.

These and other activities are signs that the $34 million, five-levelmuseum is nearing completion and on track for a grand opening next spring.

"We're making wonderful progress," said Sandy Bellamy, the executivedirector.

"We just received a $1 million challenge grant from the National Endowmentfor the Humanities. We're working with Maryland Public Television on theaudio-video segment of our permanent collection, and with the History Channelfor our orientation video. We're looking at dates in the spring to hold athree-day grand opening celebration that will feature both national and localperformers and help us welcome thousands from around the state and theregion."

Rising at the northeast corner of Pratt and President streets, the82,000-square-foot building will be the second-largest African-American museumin the country, after one in Detroit.

Designed to tell the story of African-Americans in Maryland, it willcontain galleries for permanent and temporary exhibits, an interactivelearning center, a 200-seat auditorium, an oral history recording andlistening studio, classrooms, a gift shop, a cafe, administrative offices andstorage areas. Its exterior features the four colors of Maryland's flag -ivory, gold, red and black.

The architectural team was a collaboration of RTKL Associates in Baltimoreand the Freelon Group of Durham, N.C. Gallagher and Associates of Washingtonis the exhibit designer.

Although the exterior of the building is substantially complete, the museumcan't open until the exhibits are fabricated and installed - a process that isexpected to take up to six months.

Last month, the nonprofit group that's building the museum, the MarylandAfrican American Museum Corp., selected EXPLUS Inc. of Dulles, Va., tofabricate the permanent exhibits starting this fall.

Case-making and wall-mounting will begin in December, and installation ofartifacts is expected to begin in January, with completion by the spring.Installation of the first temporary exhibit will begin in March 2005.

According to Bellamy and Victoria Stinson, public-relations and marketingmanager, the museum has received numerous requests from groups that want tohold dinners, receptions and other events in the building.

AIA Maryland got to hold its dinner in the building, Bellamy said, as afavor to museum lead architects Gary Bowden and Phil Freelon and Aris Allen, amuseum board member.

But for the most part, she explained, the museum is holding off onaccepting group reservations until after the building opens, because staffersdon't want to schedule any events that might interfere with completion of theexhibits.

Affordable housing

Michael Pyatok, one of the leading designers of affordable housing in theUnited States will discuss the factors that contribute to quality design in atalk at 6 p.m. today in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Catonsville.

Pyatok's talk - Affordable Housing in the U.S.: Who is Responsible for GoodDesign? - is sponsored by the university's Center for Art and Visual Cultureand the Neighborhood Design Center. It's part of a series of talks and eventsscheduled as part of Architecture Week in Baltimore, running through Oct. 16.More information is available from AIA Baltimore

City bond issues

Baltimore planning director Otis Rolley will discuss the bond issues thatwill be on the city ballot in the Nov. 2 election during a noontime forum onWednesday in the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles andFayette streets.

City voters are being asked to approve loans to support schools, museumsand other cultural institutions, and other community-development initiatives.Brochures will be available at the forum detailing each bond provision. Theforum is one in a weekly series presented by the Baltimore ArchitectureFoundation.

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