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Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park launches $115m expansion

The successful $115m capital campaign for the Tod Williams and Billie Tsien-designed project includes funds for future acquisitions

Victoria Stapley-Brown

Marshall Fredericks, Leaping Gazelle Fountain (Rabbit, Hawk, Grouse, Otter) (1936, cast 1995) at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Marshall Fredericks, photo by William J. Hebert

The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan is getting a major upgrade thanks to a successful $115m fundraising campaign, which will allow it to show off recent acquisitions and support the 750,000 annual visitors it has welcomed for three consecutive years—nearly four times the number it was designed for when it opened in 1995. The four-year building project, which launched in September, includes new education and visitor centres, an expansion of the current indoor exhibition space and a transportation centre on the Meijer Gardens’ 158-acre main campus, designed by the New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

The two-year capital campaign—given the warm and fuzzy title of Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love—was raised through donations of all sizes, says the Meijer Gardens’ vice president, Joseph Becherer, including 100% participation from the 32-member board and the management team, and spearheaded by gifts from the Meijer family, who founded a chain of superstores and markets in Michigan, as well as the gardens.

The capital campaign, though “primarily related to the building”, also has a dedicated allocation for “mission dollars”, Becherer says, which provides the funds needed for new gardens and sculpture acquisitions, and to reinstall works in the permanent collection.

The garden revamp will allow the institution to display recent acquisitions and sculptures that have not yet been shown to the public by artists such as Georges Minne and Joel Shapiro, and relocate around 20 to 30 pieces from the permanent collection throughout the gardens. “We have been acquiring with the notion for a couple of years that we hope to have some new environments in which to place the works,” Becherer says.

The renovation and expansion of an existing indoor gallery will allow the institution to carefully store and show off a major recent acquisition: the archives of Beverly Pepper, given to the Meijer Gardens by the nonagenarian sculptor last year, which includes drawings, prints, notebooks and sketches of her sculptures from the past seven decades. The Meijer Gardens has planned an exhibition drawn from the archives for 2 February-19 April 2018. The institution will also be able to host more travelling exhibitions.

Work on the transportation centre, the amphitheatre and the new 20,000 sq. ft education centre launched last month and is due to be completed in 2018, construction on the new 60,000 sq. foot visitor centre is planned for 2018-20 and work on the new English Perennial Gardens and the expansion of the existing building with indoor gallery spaces is scheduled for 2020-21. The Meijer Gardens has planned the new facilities to accommodate 1.2 million to 1.5 million annual visitors. “There’s a lot of energy here—there’s a lot of excitement,” Becherer says.