New York-based architect Toshiko Mori has been tapped to design a new home for the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA). The non-collecting museum, a fixture in the harbor village of Rockport since its founding by a group of local artists in 1952, has chosen a new site 10 miles south of its current location in the commercial center of Rockland, where it plans to open in 2015.
Photo © Sioux Nesi
No stranger to Maine’s rocky coastline, or its thriving art scene, Mori has shared a house in the midcoast with her husband, the artist James Carpenter, for 30 years. She has also completed a number of projects in the area, including the redesign of the interior spaces of the Farnsworth Art Museum, just across the street from CMCA’s proposed site. “With the Farnsworth, the new CMCA and the nearby Strand Theater, we hope to create a triangle for the arts,” says Suzette McAvoy, CMCA’s director. “CMCA exhibits artists with a strong connection to Maine, and our aim is to bring a higher profile to the staggering quality of contemporary art happening here.”
McAvoy, formerly a curator at the Farnsworth, worked closely with Mori while her firm oversaw the renovation of that museum from 1992 to 1996—a project McAvoy calls “a catalyst for the revitalization of Rockland.” A meeting between McAvoy, CMCA’s building committee and the architect, along with a review of the new Sean Kelly Gallery in Manhattan (a 22,000-square-foot renovation of a 1914 building that Mori completed last year, awarded a 2013 AIA New York Chapter Interior Honor) was enough to seal the deal on this commission. “The selection process was really as informal as that,” McAvoy recalls.
Mori’s design for CMCA’s new home may likely include the renovation of the site's existing spaces. CMCA is finalizing the purchase of an industrial structure in Rockland that was built as a garage. While the design process for that structure is in its earliest stage, the museum hopes to include 5,000 square feet of gallery space, an education space, a gift shop, and a separate lecture/screening room. It expects the new, larger space and the move will bring a significant increase in traffic from its current annual attendance of 10,000 visitors. “There is a long, in-depth history of art in Maine that has remained under the radar,” says Mori. “Artists like Alex Katz, Robert Indiana, and Louise Nevelson, and great institutions including Skowhegan, the Portland Museum of Art, the Farnsworth, and CMCA—to make a small contribution to that legacy is very important and means a great deal to me.”