The Institute of Contemporary Art has been selected by Boston 2000 to occupy a new cultural facility on Fan Pier. For a number of reasons, including SAND's dissent with the insular selection process employed by Boston 2000 and unaddressed issues of public accommodation in the 20-acre Fan Pier proposal, SAND members chose not to make a recommendation of one of the three finalists. A brief statement regarding SAND's issues of concern was made in a letter to the Editor of the Boston Globe.

SAND members look forward to working with Jill Medevow and the ICA, encouraging connections between this cultural institution and surrounding communities.

The Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) issued a statement in support of the ICA's selection.


City selects ICA's museum proposal

By Patti Hartigan and Anthony Flint, Globe Staff, 11/11/99

In a move hailed as a milestone for the city's cultural community, the Institute of Contemporary Art was tapped yesterday as the winner of a competition to build a museum on the South Boston Waterfront.

The museum will be the first freestanding arts facility to be built in Boston in decades, and arts leaders are hoping that the private-public partnership will spark a cultural renaissance in a city that historically lacks civic and corporate support for the arts.

''Contemporary art and the creative community make this city a vital place to live and to work and to visit,'' ICA director Jill Medvedow said yesterday. ''Our new museum will be a symbol of Boston's vision for the 21st century.''

The ICA proposal was selected unanimously by Boston 2000, the committee designated by Mayor Thomas M. Menino to pick a cultural complex for the Fan Pier site. The land was donated by the Pritzker family of Chicago, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain and developers of the $1 billion hotel, condominium, and office complex on Fan Pier. The ICA will rent the land for $1 a year from the developers.

The institute's proposal calls for a 60,000-square-foot, four-story building. The structure would be 75 feet high with a roof sculpture garden; it would hold up to 2,000 visitors.

Menino welcomed the choice of the ICA ''for this unique site along the harbor,'' adding that it was crucial to have a cultural destination on the waterfront to go alongside office, hotel, and condominium development there.

Menino also applauded the Pritzker family ''for their generous attention to the cultural life of Boston.''

Founded in the 1930s, the ICA is housed in cramped, quirky quarters in a converted police station and stable on Boylston Street, and it has been looking for a new home since the 1980s. With its limited gallery space and budget of $2 million, the ICA has not been able to keep pace with contemporary art museums in such cities as San Francisco and Chicago, which have built world-class museums within the last five years.

The ICA does not have a permanent collection, although Medvedow said yesterday that the board has been discussing ways to build one.

Medvedow said she plans to conduct an international search for an architect to design the new museum, which will include spacious galleries as well as a 400-seat theater, three classrooms with state-of-the-art media systems, a 125-seat restaurant, and a retail book store and shop.

Medvedow added that the ICA has raised $12 million of the estimated $40 million needed for the project; about $6 million of that comes from the anticipated sale of its existing building, which it bought from the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 1993.

Daniel O'Connell, vice president at Spaulding & Slye, the Pritzker family's local partner in the $1 billion Fan Pier development, said the choice of the ICA was ideal because it promises to be a 24-hour attraction.

''Their program includes visual arts but also performing arts. There will be lots of evening activity,'' O'Connell said. ''The Pritzkers and the Fan Pier team are very excited,'' O'Connell added. ''The Pritzkers have quite a focus on excellent architecture. We're sure that we will have a signature building. It hasn't always been the easiest process, but we are excited to be working together with the ICA.''

The other two contenders for the designation were a sprawling opera house complex proposed by Josiah Spaulding of the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, along with the Boston Ballet and the Boston Lyric Opera, and a 700-seat theater proposed by Boston entrepreneur Glenn KnicKrehm. After a misunderstanding about the guidelines, Spaulding withdrew his proposal, which was four times bigger than the designated parcel.

Spaulding said yesterday that he planned to continue his search for a site for a new opera house. ''The process showed that there is a need for all three proposals,'' he said. ''It would be too bad if everyone sort of stopped right here and we ignored the rest of the needs in the arts community and waited around for another 100 years.''

KnicKrehm also vowed yesterday to build his theater, which would serve the needs of many of the city's small to mid-size itinerant troupes. ''We're not going to give up,'' he said. ''We think the project is a worthy one.''

Some observers of waterfront development who were wary of the selection process were cautiously optimistic yesterday. ''The Fan Pier project as a whole benefits an affluent sector, and we hope the ICA will offer a better connection to a broader population,'' said Steve Hollinger, a South Boston resident and member of the Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design.

Todd Lee, a partner in the architectural firm Todd Lee, Clark, Rozas Associates Inc. and a member of the Boston Society of Architects, said the ICA was ''the best possible choice because it doesn't go dark at night, and during the day it isn't an impenetrable box as many performing arts venues are.''

Lee said the museum would also reinforce the existing artist community in the Fort Point historic district nearby.

''Now it's up to the mayor to say to the Pritzkers, "Help me make this really great,''' Lee said. ''This should be a gem, an extraordinary manifestation of artistic integrity and esprit. And nobody in the country or indeed the world recognizes good design more than the Pritzkers. You cannot do better as an architect than get the Pritzker Prize.'' The ICA has received national attention in years past, notably for the controversial exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs in 1990.

''Contemporary art is not without controversy,'' Medvedow said. ''It's about unearthing the human spirit, which is complex. But it's not about shock value. It's about building bridges between contemporary art and audiences.''

Medvedow and other arts leaders are hoping that the new museum enhances Boston's visibility as a world-class arts destination.

Symphony Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts were built at the turn of the 20th century, and the new ICA will mark a new era for the arts in Boston. ''This is the city you want to live in,'' said Susan Hartnett, director of the Boston Center for the Arts, which is also building a theater complex in the South End. ''These are the kinds of spaces Boston needs. That is the legacy for the millennium.''

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 11/11/99. © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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