Harn is the latest in UF's Cultural Plaza to expand


Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 1:45 a.m.
Following fast on the heels of the Museum of Natural History and its Lepidoptera Center, the University of Florida's Cultural Plaza is once again expanding, this time at the Harn Museum of Art.
That large structure with an angled roof you see taking shape just north of the "butterfly rainforest" will be the Mary Ann Harn Cofrin Pavilion and Gardens. Construction actually began a year ago this month; the building should be completed by summer, with the space to open formally in October.
"It will bring a completely different aspect to the Cultural Plaza," says Kimberly Rhoden, the Harn's director of marketing and public relations.
The two-story space will add approximately 18,000 square feet to the Harn's current size of 68,800 square feet, and it will add 8,000 square feet of exhibition space to the Harn's present 26,300 square feet for exhibits. The new pavilion will provide an entire floor dedicated to classrooms, multi-use space and space for a cafe.
"There is no place to have food over here in any of the three institutions," Rhoden says, explaining the value of the cafe.
There is also hope that the presence of an eatery will bring in new people and encourage visitors to stay at the plaza longer.
"We hope it will be a favorite lunch destination for visitors," says Rebecca Nagy, the Harn's director.
In addition to the indoor space, the area will also have a garden, with benches and outdoor sculptures.
The presence of construction workers and machinery has already generated a buzz about the pavilion, Nagy says.
"Everywhere I go in town, everybody asks me, 'What is going on there?' " Nagy says. "We hope it will get people interested in coming over."
The majority of funding for the pavilion came from Dr. David and Mary Ann Cofrin, the daughter of Samuel P. Harn. The state of Florida matched the funds originally raised for the project.
The artwork in the exhibition space will rotate every three months and will have several loaned works from different collectors. The first exhibition will concentrate on American art since World War II.
"It's an opportunity to showcase our contemporary collection," says Nagy.
Of course, the opening in October will bring with it a myriad events for everyone in the community. A black-tie dinner for donors, with UF President Bernie Machen attending, is planned for Oct. 20. The next day there will be a media reception. The opening to the public is set for Oct. 23, and Family Day will be hosted in the pavilion on Oct. 29.
At its heart, the pavilion is a chance to bring more people to the Cultural Plaza by expanding the Harn's offerings. The hope is to have something for everyone and give reason for repeat visits.
"We want to promote the Cultural Plaza as a destination where [the public] can choose where they want to go," says Nagy.

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