Palmer Museum of Art prepares for transition to new museum in 2023

– by Ellie Aungst

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In early 2023, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State will begin a phased transition as it prepares to move from its existing building into its new facility currently under construction at the Arboretum. The changeover will start in January with the closing of the museum’s second floor and a major reinstallation of the first-floor galleries before the final closure of the current building on May 14, 2023. The new museum will open to the public in spring 2024.

“We are at a transformative point in the history of the Palmer Museum of Art, as we look toward a bright future in our new state-of-the-art building and hope everyone will take advantage of this final opportunity to visit us in our signature Charles Moore-designed building on Curtin Road,” said Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art.

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- Photo taken by the Palmer Museum Of Art

A compelling reinstallation of the Benjamin and Lillian K. Snowiss Galleries of American Art on the first floor of the current building will greet visitors who visit the Palmer this spring. Titled “Conversations across the Collection,” this re-envisioning of the museum’s collection of American art will feature a diverse roster of artists from the early republic through the present. The unique reorganization will bring together both visitor favorites and objects rarely on view to invite discussion through the juxtaposition of contrasting styles, viewpoints and time periods. The unexpected pairings of paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture will be organized into multiple sections, including the American West, urban scenes, still lifes and domestic interiors, and abstraction.

“We’re excited about pairing works like Benjamin West’s ‘Venus and Adonis’ and Violet Oakley’s ‘Venus Rising from the Sea,’” noted Adam Thomas, curator of American art. “Placing the two artworks painted more than a century apart in tandem will reveal new dialogues between past and present as well as prompt conversations about our understanding of history, modernity and femininity.”

Organized by the Palmer Museum, “Conversations across the Collection” also will incorporate several recent additions to the collection, including works by Elizabeth Catlett, Ernie Barnes, Beverly McIver and Henry Ossawa Tanner. These important acquisitions are part of the Palmer Museum’s strategic goal to add works by underrepresented artists to the permanent collection and uphold its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

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- Photo taken by the Palmer Museum Of Art

On view along with the reinstallation of the Snowiss Galleries on the first floor will be the ongoing special exhibition “Designed for the Future: The New Palmer Museum of Art at the Arboretum,” which opened on Oct. 15. The exhibition focuses on the transformational new Palmer building designed by Allied Works and allows visitors to experience the innovative and versatile design of the new museum through the architect’s model, drawings, plans, renderings and animation.

Construction of the new building for the Palmer Museum of Art began in August 2021 and has surpassed 50% completion. The museum will directly neighbor the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens in The Arboretum at Penn State, replacing the current facility on campus. The new 71,000-square-foot museum, projected to open to the public in spring 2024, will boost accessibility to the University’s art collections for students, faculty, staff and the public alike. Seamlessly integrating art, architecture and nature, and sited within a landscape similar to those that inspired many of the American works in its renowned collection, the new Palmer will nearly double the space for the display, study and stewardship of the collection and exhibition program. The innovative and versatile design by architect Allied Works features a series of interlocking pavilions clad in regional stone that evokes the geology of central Pennsylvania.

In keeping with Penn State’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the new museum will be a high-performance building with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. 

“Conversations across the Collection” and “Designed for the Future,” as well as the Tonkin Gallery of Studio Glass and Ceramics on the first floor, will be on view until May 14, 2023, when the museum on Curtin Road will close to the public in preparation for its nearly yearlong move to the new Palmer Museum of Art at the Arboretum.

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- Photo taken by the Palmer Museum Of Art

Related programs

The Palmer Museum hosts a variety of in-person programs, including gallery talks, after-hours events and family programs. Visit for more information on the schedule and updates on COVID-related mandates for in-person gatherings.

The Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is the largest art museum collection between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the most significant academic art museum in the state of Pennsylvania. A key element of Penn State’s land-grant mission of teaching, research and public service, the museum is a vital and accessible cultural resource for Penn State’s students, faculty and scholars, as well as for all visitors to and from the entire central Pennsylvania region. Through its world-class objects, programs and outreach, the museum is a welcoming, inclusive and vibrant forum for authentic arts experiences and cultivates meaningful dialogue about today’s most potent ideas and pressing concerns. The free-admission museum, which has strong and long-standing connections with the wider local community, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022.

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