Woodmere Art Museum.

The Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill will be receiving an assist from the Commonwealth in its effort to construct an outdoor educational center on its property. State Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) announced that the Commonwealth Financing Authority has awarded a $75,000 grant to the museum that will be used to help fund the project, which has a total price tag of just under half a million dollars.

The fund will be utilized for an ongoing effort to create an outdoor classroom on the museum’s six-acre site on Germantown Avenue. The centerpiece of the property is a 19th century mansion that is home to the museum, but Dr. Bill Valerio, the museum’s director and CEO, is committed to growing the museum beyond the mansions’ walls.

“One of the goals of the museum is to break out of the walls of the institution and out into nature,” he said, “and to bring the educational work that we do with the arts, and to combine that with education about the environment and stewardship of that environment, and to bring that together.”

To that end Valerio would like to create an outdoor classroom on the site. “A space outdoors where classroom groups can gather with the museum educators or their own teachers,” he said, “and be able to use art as a launching point for discussions about the relationship that we all have to the natural world.”

Presently, the museum’s outdoor adornments include a sculpture by Harry Bertoia and a fountain. Valerio would like to add amenities such as running water and electricity so classes could be held outdoors.

The CFA, which authorized the grant, is charged with the task of funding programs and supporting investments that enhance the state’s economic growth. It consists of seven appointed by the state legislature, along with of the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Office of the Budget and the Department of Banking and Securities.

Approving a project for funding requires five affirmative votes; a minimum of four of the five must come from the seven legislative appointees on the board.

Rabb notes that the project blends a commitment to the arts with responsible environmental stewardship.”

“This grant is not only a vehicle by which Woodmere Art Museum can put its plan to build this outdoor recreational space into motion, but it’s also a gesture of the tremendous value of art and environmental stewardship,” Rabb said. “Visitors to Woodmere Art Museum will be able to enjoy another green space in our city while also feeding their appetite for arts and culture.”

Valerio says the goal is to be able to do everything in an outdoor classroom that could be done indoors, inside the museum. He’s hoping the project will be completed within a year.

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