The Springfield Art Museum is the recipient of a $2,752,750 grant from a tourism-related ARPA grant program, effectively pushing the museum past the 60 percent threshold for its 2028 capital improvement campaign goal.
On April 14, Gov. Mike Parson announced $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for 25 other projects around the state, in addition to the Art Museum.
The funding, from the Local Tourism Asset Development ARPA grant program, will go toward the museum’s 2028 campaign to connect a renovated facility to the nearby Phelps Grove Park and Springfield’s trail system, in addition to other capital building projects around the property.
“We’re so excited and appreciative of the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) and Governor Parson for this crucial funding, but also for recognizing the importance of the Springfield Art Museum’s renovations and expansion for our local tourism economy,” said Nick Nelson, the museum’s director, in a press release.
Among top three funding recipients, the grant is a ‘show of confidence’ in Springfield Art Museum
The Missouri DED divided the funding among different county tourism levels into three categories.
Category 3 included the vast majority of Missouri’s countries, many of which are primarily rural, allocating $6 million. Category 1 was a smaller group of counties, including the likes of Jasper, Cape Girardeau, and Platte, with $10 million available.
Category 2, meanwhile, consisted of some of Missouri’s more urban counties and tourism hotspots: Greene, Polk, Christian, Stone, Taney, Morgan, Miller, Camden, Boone, Jackson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties and St. Louis city. This category was allocated $14 million from the grant program.
The Springfield Art Museum’s $2.75 million award is among the three highest grant amounts given, shared only with the Gateway Arch Park Foundation’s Old Courthouse renovation and the Greater Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau field expansion.
An architect’s rendering shows what the new education wing of the Springfield Art Museum would look like at night if a large add-on project is completed as planned by 2028. (Courtesy City of Springfield)
“It’s a great show of confidence in our project,” said Joshua Best, the museum’s affairs officer, in an interview with the Springfield Daily Citizen. “And it really shows how relevant it is to not only our area but to the state of Missouri.”
Other nearby recipients include the City of Ozark, which received $1,179,750 for trail expansions and the City of Branson, awarded $1,592,663 for field improvements.
“Our state’s strong tourism industry is important to our economic success, and we’re proud to provide support through the Local Tourism Asset Development Grant Program,” Parson said in a press release. “Many Missouri communities rely on tourism, travel, and hospitality for continued economic growth. Grant awards made through this program will give new life to attractions and local assets that are enjoyed by countless Missourians and visitors.”
Springfield Art Museum has raised over 60 percent of $25 million goal
With this grant, the museum has now exceeded 60 percent of its $25 million 2028 capital improvement campaign goal.
The ongoing project dates back to 2018, when the museum had a master plan produced by Kansas City-based architecture firm BNIM. However, the campaign itself didn’t launch until 2021. The campaign co-chairs are Drs. Tom and Kimberley Prater.
In addition to connecting the museum to nearby outdoor amenities, renovations will take place in the building’s existing galleries and the auditorium. The education wing, constructed in 1958, will be demolished and replaced with a larger and more flexible structure.
Other aspects of the project include Fassnight Creek naturalization and stormwater improvements (which was completed in 2022), enhanced parking access and an outdoor amphitheater.
A map illustrates the plan for a trail connector between the Springfield Art Museum and Grant Avenue Parkway, using Phelps Grove Park as part of the outdoor trail. (Courtesy City of Springfield)
Thus far, the museum has raised $16 million, with five more years to reach their goal, ahead of what will be its 100-year anniversary in 2028.
Best said that the grant from the Missouri DED will help the museum get back on track following the delays to the project as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It creates renewed energy and interest in the project,” Best said. “It also expresses a good deal of confidence from our civic leaders in awarding this grant to the Art Museum.”
Best and Nelson both emphasized that the project — and the recent grant — were not only an investment in the Art Museum, but in economic development for the region.
“The Museum welcomes thousands of visitors from across the region and across the country adding much value to our local economy,” Nelson said in the press release. “These visitors have a significant impact as cultural tourists — who studies show stay longer and spend more per visit than other travelers — spending on average 60% more than other travelers. We are excited to continue making our community a great place to live and a great place to visit.”
Jack McGee is the business and economic development reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and elections for the Citizen. Before that, he worked at documentary film company Carbon Trace Productions and Missouri State University’s student-led newspaper, The Standard. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at email@example.com or (417) 719-5129. More by Jack McGee