Rethink the Parrish

Posted on 15 July 2011

Parrish Sceme C

Scheme C: The third concept for the Parrish Art Museum property envisions the creation of a horticultural center and greenhouse, as well as a 350-seat theatre space, courtyard and large multipurpose rooms connecting to the existing Parrish Art Museum building. A fourth scheme was also presented showing two additions at the rear of the property, connecting to the building via pergolas through the arboretum.

by Kathryn G. Menu

Southampton Village officials unveiled plans last week for what it hopes to do with the village-owned Jobs Lane property currently occupied by the Parrish Art Museum. That property will become vacant next summer when the museum moves to its new home in Water Mill.

The “Southampton Center for the Arts” is conceived as a visual and performing arts center. Combined with a conservancy dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the existing Parrish arboretum, the development as a whole is meant to nourish and celebrate the history of art and culture on the East End. It’s also designed to draw in artists of all disciplines from around the world to Southampton Village.

On Thursday, July 7 the Southampton Village Planning Commission held a forum meant to update the public on proposed plans for the Jobs Lane property.

Working with consultants Webb Management Services, planning commission chairman Siamak Samii said the village and a founders’ committee formed last year to look at the future of the property. The aim was to present a project that could address the needs of the village as a whole.

Duncan Webb, president of Webb Management Services and Douglas Moss of ForeSite Facility Planners presented four scenarios for the development of the property to the planning commission and a large crowd gathered at Thursday’s meeting.

Webb said the meeting was intended to gain community input on the concepts, all of which involve adding new structures to the Parrish Art Museum property.

In all four schemes, the existing 9,000 square-foot building would be restored and renovated and feature three entrances, a grounds exhibit, espresso bar, gallery space, a lobby and an exhibition gallery as well as a multipurpose room at the rear of the facility.

The village envisions a separate conservation organization would also be created, no matter which project is selected, aimed at preserving and improving the existing arboretum on the grounds.

The first concept presented was the smallest in scale, showing the creation of a 3,000 square-foot horticultural center and greenhouse in the northwest portion of the property. Directly adjacent to the horticultural center would be a 7,500 square-foot outdoor amphitheater.

Moss called this scheme “very minimal.”

The second proposal is larger in scale, calling for a two-story 25,000 square-foot addition in the same northwest corner of the property. That addition would house a 350-seat theater space, as well as a lobby, theater support room, multi-purpose room and horticultural center. It would connect to the existing building via a large plaza that Moss said would be shaped so it could also operate as an amphitheater.

The third concept calls for the horticultural center and greenhouse, which would connect via a walkway to a large two-story addition at the northwest corner of the existing building. That building would host the theater space, a theater support room, two multi-purpose rooms surrounding a courtyard, as well as a lobby.

The last scheme presented shows three new structures on the property. First, in the northwest corner sits the horticultural center. Next to that a 20,000 square-foot building would be constructed to host the theater, theater support room, a multipurpose room, classroom and a catering support room. Next to that building, directly behind the existing Parrish Art Museum, would be an outdoor performance space. On the other side, a 5,000 square-foot building hosting a multipurpose room would sit on the northeast corner of the property.

The two structures would be connected to the existing building, said Moss, through pergola walkways.

Moss added the disadvantage of the last scheme is that the structures begin to close off visual access to the arboretum, something the village is trying to promote, not detract from.

While Duncan and Moss did not present financial figures, on Monday Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said the project would likely cost around $20 million, with $10 to $15 million needed in the renovation and expansion of the site and an additional $5 million meant to cover the operating costs of the facility for five years after it opens.

A capital campaign would be used to raise the funding privately.

The facility, according to Epley, would be run wholly by the not-for-profit Southampton Center for the Arts, which has already been incorporated, and is in the process of filing for not-for-profit status. It would rent the property from the village.

Residents at the meeting were divided in their support of the plan, some stating its necessity not just economically for Southampton Village, but also to make the village more of a destination. Others feared it would be in competition with existing organizations like the Southampton Cultural Center, Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre and yes, the Parrish Art Museum.

“We don’t want to be in competition with the Parrish Art Museum or any other existing organization,” said Epley on Monday. “We have no desire to do that, which is why we are trying to create something a little different.”

Epley said the multi-disciplinary arts organization could host not just visual arts, but theatre, dance troupes and even technological art.

“Another component I would like to see is space for traveling exhibitions,” he said. “We can host different shows there, programming that involves not just art, but history, sports. We can develop relationships with organizations like The Smithsonian.”

Epley noted the founders’ committee has already been successful in reaching out to groups from New York City like Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Public Theatre and Shakespeare in the Park. They have all expressed excitement at the prospect of being able to bring programming to a space like this in Southampton, he said.

Locally, the center could also partner with groups like the Southampton Cultural Center, the Hamptons International Film Festival and even the arts program at Southampton College.

“There are so many different things we can do here,” said Epley. “And it’s extremely important we do something. This is the centerpiece of the Village of Southampton. We must have active, viable entities occupying this space 365-days a year. The idea is to create a destination point, which will be an economic driver for the village.”

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