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Gala is planned to wreck The Westmoreland Museum of American Art

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Sisters Shaina (left) and Savanna Stants, 5, of Ruffsdale play with hula hoops on the front lawn of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg during Family Day festivities on Saturday June 16, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
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An architect's rendering shows how Westmoreland Museum of American Art will look from Main Street after a major expansion.

Smashing walls, throwing paint, dancing, eating — all things off-limits during a museum visit, until now.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art will host its second Wrecking Ball on July 13. The evening may include a beautiful Gala and a swanky After Party, but it also offers the opportunity for guests to put on a hard hat and lend a hand in the final demolition. The fundraiser is the last event that will occur at the museum before reconstruction begins.

The first Wrecking Ball took place in 1998 to raise funds for a modest renewal and was such a success then that museum administrators decided to throw another to mark its upcoming project. The $18 million effort will consist of a complete overhaul of the main building, the addition of a newly designed LEED-certified east wing and a redesign of the grounds that will transform the visitor experience.

“It was kind of a sentimental thing to repeat it,” says Bree Larkin, manager of events and visitor services.

Founded in 1959, the museum has struggled to find adequate space for larger shows and the happily growing participation in educational offerings, even with the addition of the west wing in 1968.

Improved storage, better exhibition space for collections, and more room for educational programs and public gatherings are at the heart of the museum's renovation, says Judy O'Toole, the museum's director.

“We want the new space to say, ‘Hey, this is your museum, come in and take advantage of it,' ” O'Toole says.

According to O'Toole, plans for the new museum will cover all of those bases, and more. Updates include parking in front of the building, a unified office suite, Wi-Fi, and a grassy area with beautiful plantings and sculpture, not to mention a spectacular, high-ceiling gallery space for contemporary art that will overlook the hills.

O'Toole says she is most excited for the new gallery space, as well as for the two-part structure of the fundraiser, which has the more lavish Gala occurring first and the less formal After Party beginning around 9 p.m., a difference from the original Wrecking Ball.

Proper attire or a change of clothes is recommended, as guests will be invited to pound sledgehammers, splatter paint, take down walls, and learn to graffiti with local artists throughout the evening.

“We're just excited to have the chance to do something so different in the museum, like whacking holes in walls,” says Larkin, laughing. “We're hoping a lot of people will come out for this moment in museum, in Greensburg, history.”

Details: www.wmuseumaa.org

Emma Deihle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7834 or edeihle@tribweb.com.

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