With its attendance rising and seeing a need for more exhibition space, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park today announced it is adding more than 80,000 square feet of new space to the venerable Grand Rapids landmark, the result of a $115-million capital campaign.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park named its capital campaign, “Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love,” in honor of founders Fred and Lena Meijer. The expansion project, which starts late 2017 and will take an estimated four years to complete, will include a new Welcome Center, Covenant Learning Center and Transportation Center, as well as other enhancements.
Officials cited “tremendous growth in guest attendance, membership, art collections, dedicated garden spaces, and educational programs” when announcing the expansion.
Meijer Gardens has gone from 207,000 guests in fiscal year 1999 to 750,000 guests in fiscal year 2016, a 262 percent increase. With the new additions, Meijer Gardens projects its annual guest attendance could rise to between 1.2 to 1.5 million people.
As a result, the facilities need more room to grow and offer experiences to the public, said President and CEO David Hooker. “This premiere botanic and sculpture experience has served so many people and it has the potential to welcome so many more.”
Hooker said the focus “from the beginning has been to provide an exceptional experience for our members and guests, and we’re thrilled that we have the opportunity to build on our success with this new endeavor.”
“At its very essence, Meijer Gardens is a place of joy – and a legacy of love shared by Fred and Lena Meijer, the Meijer family, and thousands of team members, volunteers and donors who have created a special place. The name of our capital campaign reflects the love that Fred and Lena had for each other, for this community, and for sculpture and gardens. We strongly believe the growth of Meijer Gardens will continue and that the organization will thrive for generations to come,” Hooker added.
The project will include:
- A new 60,000-square-foot LEED certified Welcome Center
- A new 20,000-square-foot LEED certified Covenant Learning Center
- The new Peter C. and Emajean Cook Transportation Center
- Expanded and upgraded Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater
- A new Sculpture Garden Entry Plaza
- A reimagined and expanded BISSELL, Inc. Scenic Corridor
- A new Outdoor Picnic Pavilion
- A new Padnos Families Rooftop Sculpture Garden
- Expanded and accessible parking and urban gardens
Meijer Garden officials cited a 2016 economic impact study, conducted by Grand Valley State University, that estimated visitors to the facilities “support or contribute more than $75 million to the Kent County economy each year.” With the new buildings and spaces, Meijer Gardens can host additional events, add room for guests, boost its horticulture exhibits and have more sculpture exhibits with the extra galleries.
For the project, Meijer Gardens officials selected Tod Williams Billie Tsien, a New York firm of architects perhaps best known for its work on the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and as the designer of the new Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.
“We are deeply honored to be have been selected by Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for this special project,” Tod Williams said in a statement. “From our very first visit, we were struck by the incredible quality of the sculpture collection and its sensitive installation throughout the grounds, as well as by their magnificent Japanese Garden. We saw that the place and the people here are unique.”
Officials said an estimated $102 million has been raised so far for the capital campaign.
“The new facilities will be an amazing expression of our mission never before imagined,” Hooker said in a statement. “We’re thrilled with the success of the campaign but mostly, we are deeply moved by the community’s generosity toward Meijer Gardens.”
Currently host to a landmark exhibition of works by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park serves more than 700,000 visitors annually. Meijer Gardens was recently ranked in the top 100 most-visited art museums worldwide by Art Newspaper, a leading publication in global art news. The 158-acre main campus features Michigan’s largest tropical conservatory; one of the largest interactive children’s gardens in the country; arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Degas and Rodin; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens; and a 1,900-seat outdoor amphitheater that plays host to an eclectic mix of world-renowned musicians every summer.
The internationally acclaimed Sculpture Park features a permanent collection that includes works by Oldenburg, Moore, Hepworth, Serra, Bourgeois, Ai Weiwei and Plensa, among others. Indoor galleries host changing sculpture exhibitions with exhibitions by Ai Weiwei, Picasso, Degas, Mark di Suvero, Jonathan Borofsky, Alexander Calder and Jim Dine. In June 2015, the eight–acre Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park opened. Created by renowned designer Hoichi Kurisu, the garden features sculptures by Sir Anish Kapoor, Jenny Holzer and Giuseppe Penone, among others.