Two museums begin campaigns to win seats in Bicentennial Park
By Candi Calkins
Two Miami museums are launching fundraising campaigns and plans to build new sites in Bicentennial Park.
Leaders from the Miami Art Museum and the Miami Museum of Science on April 4 will present updates to a civic advisory committee appointed by the city to oversee redevelopment of Bicentennial Park.
"We're coming along and putting together our campaign cabinet and working on the capital campaign," said Louise Valdes-Fauli, chair of the Miami Museum of Science board of directors.
"We really have an incredible opportunity to create an amazing museum for the 21st century," said Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Miami Art Museum.
In November, City of Miami voters approved a $255 million bond issue, including $17 million that could finance Bicentennial Park's transformation into an envisioned 'Museum Park Miami.'
About $10 million will pay for infrastructure improvements to the downtown park at 1075 N. Biscayne Blvd., and will include a new sea wall and pedestrian walkway along the bay, landscaping and lighting. Berms would be removed to open vistas of the bay.
The two museums bidding to use the park were each granted by the city $3.5 million, three-to-one matching grants. That means each must raise $10.5 million to get the city funds.
"That would give each of us appropriate planning money," Ms. Delehanty said. She said Miami Art Museum in December raised its fundraising goal from $5 million to $10.5 million to meet the city's challenge.
Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton said he recently met with museum directors and challenged them to create a detailed schedule that would outline the many steps leading up to the openings.
"I think the museums are both working very hard to make this a reality right now," he said.
Conceptual plans for Museum Park Miami include a central open space to stage outdoor activities.
"The objective is to not only have the museums, but have an ongoing series of events in that park that really activate the park," Mr. Winton said. But "until we get more meat around the skeleton of these museums it's hard to move forward with a site design."
Plans for the Science Center of the Americas include a 365,000-square-foot, three-story facility and 4-acre science park. The center, a joint project with the Smithsonian Institution, would feature exhibits highlighting science, natural history and cultural heritage of the Western Hemisphere. The facility would include science and technology learning labs for a teacher-training program, youth center, research facilities and conference center.
"There are a lot of pieces being worked on at the same time," Ms. Valdes-Fauli said. An architect and design firm cannot be hired until the initial fundraising program is completed. Total estimated construction costs could top $205 million. The new museum would open in 2007 or '08, according to estimates.
Although the science museum's director resigned earlier this year, Ms. Valdes-Fauli said acting president Judy Brown has 15 years experience, most recently as director of its education program.
Due to the continuing efforts of Ms. Brown and museum board members, she said, there has been no interruption of the museum's drive to establish the Science Center of the Americas.
Ms. Valdes-Fauli said the science museum is interviewing through search firms and has received inquiries from candidates, but with Ms. Brown in charge of museum of operations "we do have a director."
The new science museum, she predicted, could draw an estimated 830,000 visitors annually, generate 1,150 jobs and have $1.3 billion economic impact over 10 years.
The art museum is planning a 200,000 square foot facility, two-story facility that would feature galleries and exhibits focusing on the art of the Western Hemisphere. The museum would include an educational center, cafe and store.
Construction of the art museum is estimated to cost $175 million, including $145 million from public funds and $30 million in private donations.
The art museum could attract an estimated 400 million visitors annually, backers say, generating 575 jobs and a $650 million economic impact over 10 years.
Miami Art Museum recently named two civic leaders to head an initial fundraising drive. Nedra Oren, a past president of the museum's board and past president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, and Carlos Migoya of First Union Bank will lead a committee charged with raising $10 million in donations.
Although the art museum is currently recruiting for a development director and marketing director, Ms. Delehanty said the vacancies have not affected fundraising efforts.
"This level of fundraising is really done at the trustee level," she said. "Our trustees are very committed to having this project be successful."
Up to 70 candidates for the two positions have been interviewed, said Morgan Park of Performance Inc., the Coral Gables recruiting firm hired by the art museum. She said a development director would be in place by the end of April and hiring a marketing director will follow in May.
Ms. Park said the positions were advertised in arts and philanthropy publications and direct mailings were also sent to members of professional organizations. However, the best candidates are found through personal contacts with potential recruits, she said.
An Alliance Working Group was recently created linking the art museum with leaders at the University of Miami and Florida International University. Ms. Delehanty said the Alliance Working Group will focus on the content of exhibits planned for the new museum.
"Really, a museum is two things. It's an edifice of bricks and mortars. It's architecture. But it's also an edifice of ideas and history and artistic achievements," Ms. Delehanty said.
Art museum board members will work with university leaders on developing exhibits that showcase international art of the Western hemisphere.
"Miami is an international city and Miami is also the gateway city for the Americas," Ms. Delehanty said, "so our mission is very much about our population, the people in our city, the people who come to visit us, and it's very much about our geography which is unique."
Ms. Delehanty said that Miami-Dade County is now drafting a bond issue that, if approved in the fall, would include $100 million for the art museum.
Other museum funds would come from private sources and state and federal governments.
"We're excited with the way it's moving. There's a lot of enthusiasm within our board and within our membership," said. Ms. Delehanty
The two museums would open after the performing arts center, now under construction a few blocks north of Bicentennial Park, creating a cultural corridor that would include the American Airlines Arena.
"You start," Ms. Delehanty said, "to have a major corridor dedicated to arts and culture in the heart of downtown Miami and that's an amazing civic transformation for this community."