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Updated: December 9, 2019 10 Things

40 Things I Know About ... Building galleries

To celebrate her nonprofit’s 40th anniversary, Arts Worcester Executive Director Juliet Feibel is writing four business advice columns in 2019. Her first one on entrepreneurial artists appeared in the March 18 WBJ and can be found here. Her June 24 column about running an arts nonprofit is here, and her Sept. 16 column about Worcester's creative industry is here.

Juliet Feibel

In 2017, ArtsWorcester was given an extraordinary opportunity in the Printers Building in Worcester: The design and build-out of a cutting-edge, museum-quality facility at the front and heart of a historic building. It was a new experience for me.

10) Lean on the experience of others. Before you start, sit down with everyone who has done anything like your project, and ask them: What they would do again? What would they not? My museum friends all suggested something I’d never thought of: installing plywood behind the drywall, so we can hang anything at all, wherever we like.

9) Plan for capacity you can’t imagine needing yet. Although new media art – multichannel video projections, for example – isn’t seen much now in Central Mass., we built in data ports, projectors and wiring to produce exhibitions down the line.

8) Obstacles really are opportunities. Our floor plan had to encompass a building corridor to divide our space. While two separate galleries are a great benefit, how would we lead people through an uninviting hallway? The answer was an elegant corridor and seating area made of glass.

7) Talk with the neighbors. What do they know about your site? What is their vision of the building, the street, the district? While their input may not affect you, it will shape your expectations for what you’ll experience.

6) Be patient. The work of one contractor usually depends on another, and historic renovations will complicate all attempts to synchronize their efforts.

5) Sometimes you can’t be patient. The federal government had to approve the window design for this landmarked building. If that was to be done before historic tax credits expired, we had to nudge, follow up, and plead for help.

4) Pay your vendors on time. The goodwill generated makes all the difference in your job site.

3) Insist on quality work. You will always resent the askew electrical outlet or the door scraping open. You will always be glad you made sure things were done right.

2) Embrace the history. The concrete pillars of the Printers Building were a technical marvel in their time, and their flared capitals are distinctive. We concealed some to maximize uninterrupted wall space, but we kept visible all those we could, even just as capitals peeking out along a ceiling. Our reception desk echoes their upward flare.

1) Build a generous contingency line into your budget. Even if construction goes so well you don’t have to touch it, bank it away for maintenance.

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