Friday, January 18, 2013

Maturango Museum expansion gaining momentum

Harris Brokke shows off the progress on construction at Maturango Museum. The first phase on the expansion project is gaining steam and should be on schedule to finish this year.

By Jack Barnwell

Construction efforts are picking up steam for the first phase of the Maturango Museum's expansion, according to Harris Brokke, its executive director and chief executive officer.

“It's starting to go quite steady after the first of January,” Brokke said. “There's been progress almost every day and we're pleased with that.”

While the walls still need to be thrown up on the inside, the concrete has been poured, some of the sidewalks and landing pads established and the museum's vision very quickly coalescing into a very tangible form.

"The first thing that is going to open is the new store, which is 1500 square feet, three times the size of the current store," Brokke said. "The store manager's new office, the restrooms, break room and equipment room, all that will open when we open what is called phase one."

Brokke estimated that portion would open up in April.

"The next few things that will occur is digging the septic system and trenching for the water line for the fire suppression system," he said.

"Because of the size of the new gallery, we need fire protection," he said. The second phase, containing a large gallery, which will be the new art gallery — three times the size of the current art gallery.

Brokke said that part of the construction will include a room for the gallery docents to host some programs and store materials, in addition to an exhibit preparation area.

"We anticipate the second phase to be completed in the last quarter of this year," he said, adding that the museum is tentatively planning the third phase completion in the early part of 2014.

The road from planning to construction has come quite since the idea first came up more than six years ago. The expansion, according to a Ridgecrest planning commission staff report, will add 5,605 square feet to the current museum facility's 3,500 square feet.

"Once we finish phase one and phase two, we're going to reconfigure the current space," he said. "Where the store and break area currently is will become additional storage area."

Brokke said the museum could use with more storage area.

The rest of what the current store will also transformed into an exhibit preparation room.

The current art and concert area where the Maturango Museum hosts its art exhibits and concerts will be transformed into a regular exhibit area, Brokke said, becoming the south gallery.

"We'll not only have a larger art gallery (in the new expansion), but the new art gallery will also include the concerts and the lectures," he said. "We'll be able to accommodate more people."

The north gallery, which hosts the Coso geothermal and Navy exhibits, along with natural history like the stuffed mountain lion, will remain the same.

The museum, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has sat on its current location since 1975. It operates largely on the donations from its members, store proceeds, fundraisers and admissions and the dedication of its volunteer docents.

"The expansion has been made possible by donations from our members," he said. Harris said the community support for the expansion has been "outstanding."

"We have enough money to complete phase one and almost enough to complete phase two," he said. "The museum will need some additional donations to complete phase two."

The general contractor for the first phase is Bakersfield-based Valley Steel, with some local subcontracting to Ridgecrest-area people.

Maturango Museum also plans to expand its garden along China Lake Boulevard to cover the entire length of the building, Brokke said. A committee plans to discuss plants, walkways and will include metal shaman sculptures created by Bakersfield metal artist Milt Burford.

Part of the reason for the garden is part of a Ridgecrest ordinance requiring some sort of plant coverage for buildings facing the city's main streets and boulevards. Brokke said the expansion wasn't the only thing under development for the Museum.

"In addition to the construction, we are also in the process of developing a 20 year strategic plan for the entire property," Brokke said. He said more information would be released as the plan undergoes development.

Maturango Museum currently sits on a portion of land leased from Kern County. "We are excited about the new museum and frankly I think the public is too," he said.