Boston Globe: Cape Ann Museum adds green space, galleries with new satellite campus

September 25, 2020

By Diti Kohli, Globe Correspondent

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Just as autumn settles in, the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester is unveiling a four-acre satellite campus that ties together three historic buildings, a newly constructed exhibition space, and the surrounding outdoor landscape.

The Cape Ann Museum Green, as the new campus is called, is home to the Janet and William Ellery James Center, a brand-new facility designed by Boston-based designLAB architects with more than 2,000-square-feet dedicated to public programming and community engagement. Situated nearby are three very old structures, all owned by the museum: the White Ellery House (dating to 1710), an early New England barn (c. 1740), and the recently acquired Babson-Alling House (1740).

“[The Green] acts almost like a gateway to the city,” said museum director Oliver Barker. “It creates a different sort of invitation to Cape Ann and to the museum itself. And having some open space is very important in this COVID climate. This campus is going to help us innovate.”

Located on the intersection of Washington and Poplar St., the Green serves as an extension to Cape Ann’s downtown campus. (In fact, its colonial-era structures are even subjects for multiple Fitz Henry Lane paintings in the museum’s collection.) The new campus promises spacious galleries for a growing collection and storage spaces — something the museum desperately needs, Barker said. Its lawn is also brimming with indigenous trees, shrubs, and flowers, all planted since landscaping began in the spring.

In the future, the Green may hold a sculpture park.

The museum’s main location, in downtown Gloucester, remains packed with galleries, an auditorium, a library, children’s activity center, and garden. Its permanent collections display fine art from maritime artists and artifacts from major area industries like fishing and granite. But in the COVID era, the space can hold only a fraction of its usual foot traffic. Barker said the downtown spot will operate at less than 10 percent capacity after reopening to the general public next week.

“The downtown space is amazing, but we’ve outgrown it a bit,” he explained via phone. The Cape Ann Museum Green “gives us some wiggle room, and it’s a beautiful property.”

Though the Green’s outdoor offerings may be less enjoyable when temperatures drop below freezing, it’s slated to welcome visitors year-round. An official opening is planned for June, but the campus started welcoming visitors last week with an exhibit in the Janet and William Ellery James Center called “The Porch-Rait Project.” The display features the work of several local photographers who documented 245 families in the pandemic’s early days.

“The portraits in ‘The Porch-Rait Project’ show ... parents with energetic youngsters, teenagers awkwardly being embraced by their parents, people isolating alone and in multi-generational pods,” museum curator Martha Oaks said in a statement. “And if you look closely, they show hints of spring, of rebirth.”

The Green (13 Poplar St.) is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The campus is free and open to the public. The main campus (27 Pleasant St.) opened to members Thursday and will welcome the public as of Oct. 1. Timed tickets are required for both and can be found at www.capeannmuseum.org.

Diti Kohli can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.


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