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Longview museums move forward on renovations

By Richard Yeakley
Sept. 5, 2014 at 10 p.m.


Three downtown Longview museums are moving forward to better attract Longview residents.

The Longview Museum of Fine Arts is making headway on a new lecture hall it hopes to have ready by the Christmas season, while a children's discovery center received donations that will help it progress.

Renee Hawkins, executive director of Longview Museum of Fine Arts, said all of the demolition work has been done at the building, and once the lecture hall is open, it can be leased for meetings.

"It will save a lot of wear and tear on the floor not having to get tables and chairs out," Hawkins said.

The museum, at 215 E. Tyler St., has been planning the lecture hall for about three years. It will occupy space previously used to store artwork.

The museum raised $175,000 to create a new vault for its artwork and renovate the former space into a lecture hall. The money came in many forms, Hawkins said, but $50,000 came from the Johnson Foundation for the vault, and another $10,000 came from Texas Bank and Trust for the lecture hall.

The work, being done with the help of Key Building Systems, should continue throughout the fall.

"It will be done before the end of the year. We have our holiday stuff in December, and we are planning for all of the building stuff to be done," Hawkins said.

Meanwhile, a hands-on children's discovery center received about $57,000 in donations Friday, helping the center move forward from the enervation of summer fundraising.

Longview World of Wonders, which has been operating for years as a museum without walls, received a $14,150 donation from the Longview-Greggton Rotary Club; a $37,850 grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board that will go toward an Oct. 25 "Frontiers of the Brain" exhibit; and $5,000 from Brookshire's Food & Pharmacy, completing a $20,000 pledged gift.

"It has kind of been a slow summer when you are totally relying on money coming in the door to keep the project going," Longview WOW board President Lisa Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough said she hopes the funds will allow the center to begin building the bathrooms and lobby, one of two steps needed to make the Tyler Street facility usable.

The second step will be to get the former Texas Furniture Building up to code, and then events, such as the upcoming exhibit, could be housed on the property instead of at the Longview Exhibit Building at the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

Longview WOW also is moving forward in a search for an interim director, who is to be hired for six months to help get the museum up and running. Yarbrough said she was hopeful the board would reach a decision soon.

Across downtown, the Gregg County Historical Museum on Fredonia Street has increased the cost of admission.

Raina Howerton, executive director of the museum, said the change became effective Aug. 1.

The decision came about because the museum had reopened an exhibit featuring the Caddo Indians, and it also will level admission rates with other museums in the city.

Admission for adults increased from $2 to $5, and admission for seniors rose from $1 to $2. The price for students remained unchanged at $1.

Howerton said she had not seen a decrease in traffic since the implementation of the increased rates.

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