Southampton Center for Arts Planned for Job’s Lane

Great news for the Village of Southampton: the historic space that now houses the Parrish Art Museum on Jobs Lane will not be abandoned after the Parrish moves into the new $25 million, 34,500 square-foot building in Water Mill. The new facility will triple the Museum’s current exhibition space for the Parrish collection, which includes more than 2,600 pieces of art from the 19th century to today, as well as temporary exhibitions. The progress on the museum’s new home can be seen as you drive east on Route 27 (it’s on the north side). The roof is now being put on the building, which was designed by celebrated Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.

But the cheers are for what will become of the old building on Jobs Lane. “At the end of next summer…we’ve gotta have a game plan ready,” Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said. “We’ve gotta start whatever type of construction we’re gonna start because we want that space—whether it’s internal or external—utilized next summer.”

When the Jobs Lane building was designed in the 1890s, Mr. Samuel Parrish, who actually lived in Philadelphia but summered in Southampton at his family estate, was at the center of its creation. After being born into a family of prominent Pennsylvania Quakers and educated at Harvard College, Mr. Parrish developed a keen eye for talented artists and began collecting. The story goes that while purchasing art in Italy around 1896, Mr. Parrish first envisioned the building that now exists on Jobs Lane. In Mr. Parrish’s words, he wanted to “transplant to a small, once-Puritan village on the eastern end of Long Island a delicate exotic in the form of an artistic collection that would express at least something of the spirit of the Italian Renaissance.” [expand]

Next summer, the Village-owned building and grounds will receive a three-year, $20 million renovation and expansion. The updated historic edifice will eventually house the new “Southampton Center for the Arts,” a multi-disciplinary arts institution that will serve as both a platform for art as well as a bridge from the past to the future. Duncan Webb, president of Webb Management Services, and Douglas Moss, a partner in the New York-based planning firm ForeSite Facility Planners, presented four plans at a Village Planning Commission meeting on July 7 at the Village Justice Center. All plans will improve the “building’s footprint,” while also seeking to preserve and enhance the surrounding arboretum.

Mayor Epley and other village officials estimate that the renovation project will cost between $10 million and $12 million. They are hoping to privately raise the sum of $10 million for estimated operational costs.

In all four plans, the main building will present a dramatic south-to-north grounds exhibit, with a touch of the modern in the form of an espresso bar. There will also be gallery space and a unique lobby with additional gallery space. There is a plan for a quaint path from Main Street ascending to the structure, invoking the all-important historic flavor that permeates the East End.

Surveys showed that the community wanted to use the space for cultural objectives once the Parrish moves out in 2012. Many are enthusiastic that the space that Samuel Parrish first used to house his masterpieces will someday manifest a whole new dimension of the ever-evolving world of modern Western art out here in the Hamptons.

One opposing view came from a blogger on a popular East End website who stated, “$20 million in Southampton village equates to approximately $7000 per registered voter…The 1800s were quite a few years ago and those antiquated tired folks haven’t been relevant for decades. The artist colony is neither artist nor colony anymore. This is a silly idea, as out of touch as anything that has occurred in the Village in a long time.” Hopefully this person will realize how very wrong he or she is, because, as the saying goes, it is the art that defines the culture. I, for one, applaud Mayor Epley and the Southampton officials who understand the importance of having something that will draw the community into the heart of the Village. [/expand]

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