The Butler expands to neighboring building

In January, the Butler Institute of American Art will unveil a new exhibit that will shine by night and open a world of folk art to the community by day.

The museum is expanding into the neighboring facility — Butler North, which it acquired in 2006 — and transforming the second level into a folk art exhibit.

A glass bridge will connect the two facilities and host an exhibit of glass bells donated to the museum over the years.

“We’ve been talking about it for a number of years, and finally we were able to get enough funds to get started,” said Louis Zona, the museum’s executive director and chief curator.

The construction will cost approximately $1.5 million.

“Lou has just done a great job. I don’t know how he does it,” said Greg Moring, chair of the Youngstown State University Art Department. “With the downturn in the economy, he still manages to be very creative in fundraising.”

Zona said fundraising was a quiet venture, and funding for the bridge came from private donations.

“It’s going to be another wonderful venue for the community,” Zona said.

The art — including Americana art, such as signage from the 18th and 19th centuries, boat models, carousel horses, weather vanes and more — has not been displayed in the museum before and will become part of the permanent museum display.

“It’s going to be quite an array of objects that talk about the history of art in our country,” Zona said. “This is going to open up a whole new world to our visitors.”

Butler North’s two lower levels are now used for performance and classroom spaces. The Butler offers community art classes to grade school students, and they are taught in Butler North.

YSU art students also visit the facility to augment classwork. Moring said the new expansion will be great for the art department, the university and the community as a whole.

“I think it’s great for the university because it brings outside constituents,” Moring said. “People from the region that come down to visit the Butler also hopefully might walk over to the McDonough, and then maybe stroll through campus.”

After construction is completed, Zona said he hopes to embellish the bridge with color-changing lights to accent the structure at night.

“I think it’s really awesome that they’re making an effort to connect the two [buildings], so it’s easier to access more art,” said Marisa Zamary, a junior professional writing and editing major. “It’s always a great idea to be able to educate people and make them more cultured and bring more art into their lives.”

Zona said he feels confident that construction will be completed by the projected January date.