- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina Museum of Art’s new plan for the future involves the great outdoors: more parking, pathways, a redesign of the signature smokestack on the former detention center property and even a bus stop.

“Connecting people to the museum is a goal. It’s important to make the museum as accessible as possible. I get tired of hearing, ‘I couldn’t visit the museum because I couldn’t get there.’ It’s not fair,” said Dan Gottlieb, the museum’s director of planning and design and the person leading the plan for the museum’s 164-acre campus in Raleigh.

So the museum is working with the city of Raleigh and the Triangle Transit Authority to bring local and regional public transportation to the museum in west Raleigh.

“We just don’t think it’s right that if you don’t drive a car, you’re at a disadvantage” in visiting the museum,” Gottlieb said.

Museum leaders announced earlier this month that the museum has received $13 million from an anonymous donor to complete the first phase of its the plan, which includes transforming the historic smokestack that’s one of the last remaining structures from the Polk Youth Detention Center that was adjacent to the museum for years.

The museum opened at its current location in 1983, and Polk was moved 14 years later in 1997. The museum took ownership of the property in 2001 and finally finished razing Polk in early 2004.

The 130-foot-tall smokestack will be a beacon both day and night, Gottlieb said. The museum will be ready to unveil the design, by artist Jim Hodges, in the next couple of months, he said.

The money also will go toward bike and walking paths that will connect to the Capital Area Greenway. Work on the first phase of the plan is scheduled to begin in the spring of next year and take about 18 months to complete.

The second part of the plan also includes a flexible space that would allow for a variety of programming indoors and outdoors. New coves, more trees and new trails would be added to the meadows and woodland in the park.

A formal public sculpture park would be created. The plan also calls for a tree-lined walk from West Building, past East Building and into the park with additional paths that would encourage visitors to interact with the artwork.

“The Vision Plan is intended to be just that, a vision for our future,” museum director Larry Wheeler said in a news release.

The museum has hired landscape architecture and urban design firm Civitas Inc. of Denver to develop the vision plan.

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Online:

www.ncartmuseum.org

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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