Crews will begin expanding the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at City Park next month — an initiative that will add an amphitheater and other elements as it doubles the size of the popular outdoor attraction at the New Orleans Museum of Art .

The $15 million, six-acre expansion, which will be completed next winter, will add 22 sculptures to the 64 already there, as well as an amphitheater and stage, pedestrian bridges and walkways, a new gallery and an outdoor learning environment.

The sculpture garden will continue to be free and open to the public seven days a week.

NOMA Director Susan Taylor said the project furthers the museum’s mission of bolstering community access to the arts, growing NOMA’s constituency and making all of the museum’s spaces into learning environments, inside and out.

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“This significant undertaking reinforces NOMA’s integral role in serving the diverse communities of New Orleans,” she said.

The expanded sculpture garden, designed by Reed-Hilderbrand and Lee Ledbetter & Associates, will allow for film screenings, theater productions, wellness classes, community workshops, festivals and other events.

NOMA spokeswoman Margaux Krane said the amphitheater will have space for about 250 people seated on the grass and will be a regular home for current productions, like those done with the NOLA Project, as well as other new opportunities.

“The hope is to be able to offer this and additional programming to a wider public,” she said, noting that educational and children’s programs will be offered. 

The expansion will also include a small covered gallery space where select pieces from inside the museum can be temporarily displayed outside — another effort to reach a broader audience, Krane said.

Artists whose works will be displayed in the new garden include Frank Stella, Fred Wilson and Sean Scully, and there will be a commissioned work by Teresita Fernandez.

Advocate Staff photo by SOPHIA GERMER
Construction begins behind the New Orleans Museum of Art to expand the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.

The existing lagoon in the expansion area will be reshaped and partially filled in, though the water capacity will remain the same because it will be deeper. The changes will reduce the load on the city's drainage system, museum officials said. 

The Girl Scout cabin on the property will continue to be accessible to the Girl Scouts for their activities and programs.

Private donors are funding the project and the ongoing maintenance and operation of the garden.

Construction will take place within a fenced-in area, and NOMA said it expects minimal disruption to vehicular traffic and nearby park activities, even with work on the new Children’s Museum also underway nearby.

The contractor, Palmisano, will take deliveries and haul materials at off-peak hours and has said its parking needs will be met without disrupting visitor access.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.

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