Construction at massive new CSULB art museum promises more art and community inclusion

A longtime goal of the Cal State University, Long Beach campus is well on its way to being realized with the renovation and expansion of the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, formerly known as the University Art Museum.

Though still in the trenches of construction, the new exterior walls of the museum are up which now encompass an additional 4,000 square feet of land—most of which is dedicated to the Main Gallery, an impressive near-3,000 square foot windowless expanse that will be built with moveable walls, allowing for multiple exhibitions at a time.

Two galleries were typically the most the museum could host before.

Amanda Fruta, of CSULB, stands in the 3,000-square-foot main gallery room at Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum on the CSULB campus in Long Beach Thursday, July 8, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The remaining square footage—11,000 in total including new outdoor gardens and seating areas—will feature a state-of-the-art education laboratory, a reading and archives room, an office space, a visitor’s lobby and reception area, a retail shop, a temperature-controlled storage room and three permanent gallery spaces, some of which will have multipurpose uses.

“Expanded, professional-grade galleries will host several different exhibitions at a time and allow the museum to deepen its leadership in the exploration of abstraction,” said newly appointed museum director Paul Baker Prindle in a statement.

Clark Construction Group began working on the museum in June 2020, alongside renovations to the museum’s neighboring Horn Center which is in the process of retrofitting and converting its computer lab and undergraduate advising center into 10 classrooms, two lecture halls, and additional all-gender restrooms.

The total cost for both projects is $24 million, according to CSULB. While state funding is paying for the Horn Center, private donations are footing the bill for the new museum. Its greatest benefactor is the museum’s new namesake, artist Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld, who donated $10 million, as reported by the Daily 49er.

The museum also includes a 521-square-foot gallery built in her honor that will be outfitted with barrel ceilings and hardwood floors. The Kleefeld Gallery room will house a permanent collection of some of her works in addition to a rotating selection by other artists.

The Kleefeld Gallery room will be the only space with hardwood flooring—the rest of the museum, save for the carpeted offices, will be laid with concrete. With this cozy feature, the gallery room will also be used as a community hall where visitors can reserve quiet, loud, evening or weekend hours for use.

“We definitely don’t want to be another ivory tower in the museum space, that’s really the antithesis of what we’re working towards,” Amanda Fruta, public affairs and communication specialist for Kleefeld Contemporary explained. “With the quiet hours, loud hours, extended hours, gardens, multi-use spaces, learning spaces and all-gender bathrooms, we want really want everyone to feel welcome here.”

Pfeiffer Partners Architects will be adding a new, glass vestibule to the original mid-century façade designed by famous architect Ed Killingsworth. The near 15-foot-tall diamond offset structure will act as an eye-catching attraction, hopefully encouraging passersby to stroll through the museum, something the space had previously struggled to do, Fruta said.

A construction worker walks through the main entrance in what will be the glass vestibule of the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum on the CSULB campus in Long Beach Thursday, July 8, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

A rendering of the front exterior of the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum. Image courtesy CSULB.

Pfeiffer Partners Architects continued the angular theme with three triangular points on the expansion’s roof. Once finished, the exterior walls of the expansion will be lined with sturdy, seam metal panels and stucco.

The entire expanse of the original museum building has been renovated; the floor plan also revamped. What was formerly the main gallery space will now be the Constance W. Glenn Court (named after the museum’s founding director) that features a visitors lobby and check-in, a modest retail shop, and two small, rotating art galleries.

A rendering of the Constance W. Glenn Court that will include a 20-foot-long modern stone top welcome desk. Image courtesy CSULB.

Upon entering the 8-foot-tall double doors of the museum, visitors will immediately notice a small retail space that will sell handmade or wearable artworks by recently graduated CSULB art students from the School of Art, School of Industrial Design and other interdisciplinary programs.

“We recognize that it’s hard to be a fresh fish out of water jumping into the cold ocean of the art marketplace,” Fruta said. “We want to help these emerging artists have a kind of bridge way so that they have a higher likelihood of success.”

Lining the wall along the retail space will be a small selection of works from the museum’s permanent collection and other curated pieces. From June to July, an art history student will be awarded the chance to curate and present an exhibition from the museum’s collection on the wall as well.

The Community Gallery (200 square feet) in the Glenn Court will line the wall space leading toward the Horn Center and showcase three shows, two from local professional artists and one “local call” exhibition for interested Long Beach residents.

“So, we really wanted to make this front and center to show that we embrace the community and that we see ourselves as not just a part of the community, but a community ourselves,” Fruta said.

In keeping with the university’s push toward sustainability and environmental proficiency, the museum will be upgraded to LEED Silver standards with solar panels on the roof to help power the building. The gallery will be lit throughout with LED strip lighting and LED spotlights, which are significantly more energy-efficient than conventional bulbs.

A bird’s eye view rendering of the museum and Horn center just behind. Image courtesy CSULB.

“The new LEED Silver Certified Museum is being built to serve the campus as a living laboratory for cultural exploration and a showcase of the campus’ aggressive sustainability commitment,” said CSULB Director of Design and Building Services Mark Zakhour in a statement. “Intentional selection of native plants in landscaping, use of sustainable and local building materials, integration of solar panels, energy-efficient design, green cleaning and maintenance plans, and investment in long-lasting learning technologies were key aspects of the build that contributed to the sustainability rating.”

A costly new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) system throughout the museum will ensure temperature control and protect the presented art as well as the works kept in the museum’s new storage vault. The new vault will allow the university to finally house its permanent collection on campus—the works are currently kept in storage areas all around the South Bay.

“All of our American modern masterpieces of the Gordon F. Hampton collection were housed off-site,” Fruta said. “Now we can have them here and have much better access not just for that collection, but for our works on paper collection, which includes extensive printmaking, drawings and photography that will be available for research requests for study.”

The Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum anticipates it will open publicly by February 2022.

Interested in more Kleefled Contemporary content? Click below:

PODCAST: The art of museum navigation with Kleefeld Contemporary’s Paul Baker Prindle

PODCAST: Back to school at CSULB; journalism, art and the ‘B’ word

Editors Note: The story has been updated to correct the name of the artist George F. Hampton, not Hanson as previously reported and the correct height of the glass vestibule, which will be close to 15ft tall, not 8.

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Cheantay Jensen is reporter and award-winning videographer who covers entertainment, art, food and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post. And sometimes breaking news, you know, just to keep things interesting.
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