August 2014: Cape Ann Museum Reopening an Affair to Remember

By Carol Thistle

With the Cape Ann Museum closed for renovations the past year, the Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District has sorely missed one of its most cherished institutions. The entire community was thrilled to welcome the museum back this week when it reopened with a gala celebration and guided gallery tours.

And what a way to get back into the swing of things! At Saturday’s gala, board members, staff, local artists and other dignitaries took in a delightful summer eve celebrated with locally-prepared cuisine and the unveiling of stunning new look for the 131-year-old museum.


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The museum renovation features a number of fresh touches and a sense of innovative styling within the historic space. The most prominent example is the installation of a 10-foot-high lighthouse “lens” that bends sunlight in an ever-changing display of color and texture. Naturally, the work was borne of a Cape Ann treasure, with the lens taken from a 19th-century lighthouse once located on Thacher Island, a little more than a mile off Rockport’s coast.


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The Cape Ann Museum’s new look extends well beyond art. The makeover added a small amount of space to the museum (less than 400-square-feet was added to the existing 30,000-square-feet of gallery space) but most importantly, it added important amenities and systems, including a new restroom (complete with the “Strong Breezes and Passing Clouds” installation by local artist Diane KW that highlights reclaimed material from shipwrecks), a remodeled lobby, modern lighting and new wall space for showing the featured collection of works by Gloucester’s Fitz Henry Lane (The Cape Ann Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Fitz Henry Lane oil paintings and pencil drawings.) Other improvements include new heat and air conditioning systems and sprinkler upgrades.


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The “new” Cape Ann Museum may just be getting started. The museum’s staff and benefactors are committed to increasing awareness of the facility in Gloucester, on Cape Ann and across the world, not only by promoting the institution’s trove of works by celebrated artists (for example Winslow Homer and modernist Nell Blaine), but also by featuring contemporary artists.

With more staff than ever and new exhibitions planned, the restored Cape Ann Museum is poised to become an even greater part of the cultural scene in Gloucester. The Cape Ann Museum is a wonderful treasure. Congratulations to everybody who helped the museum take a bold step toward a brighter future.


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