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The Crocker is looking ahead.
Leaders of the Crocker Art Museum, a few blocks from the new arena, are showing that even a 131-year-old institution can show some agility. Exhibit A is the 2 1/2-acre sculpture garden complex that the Crocker’s envisioning for Crocker Park, the city block across from the museum’s main entrance.
“Ten thousand to 30,000 newcomers will live a half-mile from the Crocker in the next 20 years,” says Lial Jones, chief executive officer of the museum. The community gathering space, she adds—which landscape architecture firm !melk, creator of The Barn public event spot in West Sac, will design—“will extend the museum visit to the outdoors. We’ll be able to up the number of programs and events we have, provide more gallery space, parking and get some much-needed storage space.”
The 160,000-square-foot Crocker, which first opened in 1885, is one of only 800 museums in the country that have been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. (For comparison’s sake: There are 35,000 museums in the country.) Approximately 250,000 visitors come to the Crocker each year, Jones says, “and we have to think more in terms of connectivity.
“More of the population of West Sacramento lives closer to the museum than people who live in Sacramento,” she continues. “So we should be thinking in terms of transforming the area—the Crocker, the arena and Downtown Commons to the east, and the Washington neighborhood of West Sac, connected to us via the Tower Bridge—into a fluid cultural experience.” On tap already is a two-part sculpture, with one on each side of the Sacramento River, to visually unite the two cities. The Crocker, the city of West Sacramento and the city of Sacramento partnered to write a grant to the National Endowment for the Arts, which was successful.
The Crocker underwent a huge expansion that opened in 2010, one that made it a fully contemporary venue that still pays heed to its glorious post-gold rush past. Its CEO and board members now see it as being a link to Sacramento’s most futuristic icon, Golden 1 Center, and radiantly re-imagined, re-emerging downtown.
“We’re all part of this,” Jones says. “Arts, sports, entertainment, retail, hospitality. I took this job 16 years ago but it just gets more and more exciting each year.”