The motivation to embark on the San Juan Islands Museum of Art building venture was triggered in early 2013 when the construction of Peace Island Hospital put the former Emergency Medical Services (EMS) building on the market. This structure, just a few blocks from the ferry landing on Friday Harbor’s “main” street, was the perfect new home for IMA, which for 10 years had operated out of revolving vacant store fronts.
The total construction budget was $3.25 million. A unique characteristic of the new IMA project is an all-out effort to minimize “non-mission critical” elements that appear in some museums, e.g. coffee shops, retail operations, restaurants, vast open spaces, and redundant administrative offices. The net result is an outlay of only 20 percent of similar small museums’ building costs in the U.S., while retaining a spacious yet intimate feel that is both architecturally dramatic and highly functional. Apropos to an art museum, the new building is a work of art, with three galleries, an airy artist workshop and a dramatic glass atrium facing Spring Street.
The new museum, designed by architect Richard Hobbs and completed in December 2014, is built to the highest standards of museum specs for climate control, with the same state-of-the-art technology used in art museums world wide. The atrium gallery will showcase sculptural works, while the climate-engineered interior galleries are designed to protect the most delicate of paintings. Lighting is safe and efficient LEDs, with an elaborate system that allows careful spotlighting of each piece of art.