No big surprises on the facade according to an artist’s rendering of the new Drawing Center. (all images courtesy The Drawing Center)

After a year of renovations, The Drawing Center will open its doors at 35 Wooster Street on Thursday, September 13, 2012. The $9.6 million expansion gives the non-profit a hearty 9,150 square feet of space for three separate galleries, doubling its previous size. The three galleries will allow flexibility, control and breadth of dialogue, especially with the addition of The Lab, a new hybrid gallery in the building’s basement.

A main entrance and bookstore will be the first thing visitors see. (click to enlarge)

Established in 1977, the Drawing Center is (currently) the only fine arts institution in the US focused solely on the exhibition of historical and contemporary drawings.  Notable recent exhibitions include Leon Golub: Live & Die Like a Lion and one of my all-time favs, Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World. The three exhibitions inaugurating the new space will be: (1) Guillermo Kuitca: Diarios in the main space, an Argentinian artist drawing on discarded paintings; (2) a selection of notebooks by José Antonio Suárez Londoño; and (3) In Deed: Certificates of Authenticity in Art, curated by Susan Hapgood and Cornelia Lauf.

A few years back there was talk that The Drawing Center may consider changing their location from Soho to the World Trade Center site or South Street Seaport but Executive Director Brett Littman said they abandoned the idea of massive expansion to either of these locations in 2008:

As a board and staff we felt that that scale of expansion didn’t seem prudent anymore.  At one point, many felt that SoHo was no longer an art neighborhood, but after 2008 that started changing. I grew up in New York City and I remember going to the Drawing Center on Green and then later on Wooster — the Drawing Center’s heart and soul is in Soho. Our artists voiced a desire for a space outfitted with technology, speakers, projectors, climate control. While we were ready to grow, we wanted to uphold the core values of institution in providing an intimate place for viewing art and executing the quality shows we are known for.

The main gallery should be familiar to anyone who has visited The Drawing Center before.

The new expansion will allow them to provide more programming than ever before. “Having three gallery spaces  allows us to do three shows, or variations. This allows us much more flexibly and control of the narratives created by the space,” Littman says.

A view of the new public programming space on the lower level (click to enlarge)

The final plan came about after extensive “discussions with artists about what they need and want from a space,” which included talk of tech, speakers, projectors and climate control. They also looked at dance and performance, which are increasingly becoming part of the programming of fine art institutions.

Littman and architect Claire Weisz also mentioned to The Gallerist that the renovation will allow ample opportunity for digital work as the gallery no longer houses an archive onsite and everything will be accessible on computers.

What will happen on opening day? Drawing in the streets and all-ages family workshops of course, which speaks to the Center’s mission to engaging the community and creating dialogue around art and culture. “Yes, a lot of people feel SoHo has changed so much, but it hasn’t completely — it is still populated with many artists and creatives at heart. There are always people always coming by asking ‘when are you going to open again?’ Littman  says.

That day is not far off.

With reporting by Ben Valentine

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Rhoni Blankenhorn

Rhoni Blankenhorn is a California-born contemporary art writer and consultant, now living in Brooklyn. Find her on twitter @rhonierika.