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Worcester Art Museum wins $200,000 grant for Lancaster Plaza Project

June 16, 2020 : Telegram & Gazette, by Richard Duckett

WORCESTER — The Worcester Art Museum has been awarded a $200,000 Capital Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund for its Lancaster Plaza Project.

According to the museum, the Lancaster Street side entrance is used by 90 percent of its 110,000-plus annual visitors and students due to its proximity to the primary parking lot and convenience to the Café and Higgins Education Wing, where youth, teen, and adult art educational programming takes place. The construction project includes the complete removal of the stairs, down to street level, and their replacement by a “much more hospitable staircase” leading to the existing Lancaster Lobby along with a new, fully accessible elevator with direct access to the Higgins Education Wing.

WAM is currently closed to the public because of the COVID19 pandemic but is running a number of online activities.

“We are so very grateful to the Mass Cultural Council and MassDevelopment for this generous award, which will help make the Museum’s busiest entrance fully accessible to ALL audiences, including people who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility, families with strollers, and people who just prefer another option to steps,” said Matthias Waschek, Jean and Myles McDonough Director of the Worcester Art Museum, in an announcement about the grant.

A cornerstone of the Worcester Art Museum’s Campus Master Plan, the Lancaster Plaza Project addresses the museum’s most critical access, maintenance, security and safety concern: the deteriorating exterior stairs and lack of full accessibility at its Lancaster Street entrance, the museum said. The project, kickstarted with a gift provided to WAM by the Jean and Myles McDonough Charitable Foundation, “supports the museum’s strategic priorities of providing greater access to its distinguished collection and educational opportunities and in creating a more welcoming place for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.”

The grant is the maximum amount awarded this year through the competitive state program, co-administered by the Mass Cultural Council and MassDevelopment, which provides capital and planning grants to nonprofits, collections and municipalities that own or operate facilities primarily focused on the arts, humanities and sciences.

“Improving accessibility and equity at our state cultural organizations is a priority of the Mass Cultural Council, and I am proud that CFF funds will go to improve access to the beautiful Worcester Art Museum,” said Anita Walker, executive director of the Mass Cultural Council.