.NUMU: New MuseumLos Gatos breaks Ground

Los Gatos art and history museums will combine in repurposed former library

TAKE THE FLOOR: The New Museum Los Gatos, which plans to open in phases throughout 2015, will take over both levels of the old Los Gatos Public Library.

The empty building formerly occupied by the old Los Gatos Library shall soon transform into New Museum Los Gatos. Groundbreaking took place a few weeks ago and the transformation will emerge in stages. The upper level is slated to debut next spring, with the lower level tentatively schedule for later in in 2015.

As of right now, two facilities, the Art Museum of Los Gatos and the more history-centric Forbes Mill Museum, operate under the same umbrella, but the brand is quite a bit antiquated. So when the new Los Gatos Library opened up a few years ago, leaving the old location empty, desolate and abandoned, several plans began to percolate. A grand scheme soon became obvious: merge the art and history museums into one new location: the empty former library. It’s a fantastic idea and a smart, effective way to repurpose a mid-century modern building. Bravo Los Gatos!

If you’re familiar with Los Gatos, they get irked when anyone calls it a “city.” They are no such thing. They are a “town.” But the new museum’s brand, now called NUMU for short, seems contemporary, chic and vibrant, something you’d expect from—dare I say—a city and not some detached land of a thousand hair salons way out there where the lightrail doesn’t run.

And if you’re familiar with the Oakland Museum, NUMU can be seen as a similar type of model, although not exactly the same. NUMU will not just showcase locally related shows. They plan to collaborate with other nationwide institutions (I won’t give away any secrets) to stage exhibits dealing with larger Bay Area-wide subject matters that can somehow be seen through a Gatos lens. There will exist Gatos-centric exhibits, to be certain, but the goal is make the facility a Bay Area Museum. Some exhibits will present Los Gatos in historical and artful contexts while also highlighting larger topics.

Since I have a thing for abandoned buildings, I just had to show up and get a tour from new Executive Director Lisa Coscino. There will be two main spaces for rotating exhibits and also a permanent space for a grand-scale Los Gatos historical oeuvre of sorts, now that space exists. Additional space might be able to accommodate solo exhibits or even collection-based shows by local eccentrics. For example, you might see one Los Gatos resident’s collection of old rock posters from the 1960s, an exhibit of Holy City memorabilia or something similar.

Cultural and educational events will also unfold, and with more storage space now available, the museum’s permanent collection can be tapped in a much more effective fashion. Also look for a multimedia education room, where children can learn how to edit video, record music or take a variety of classes. Since misguided bureaucrats have long since slaughtered arts and music education in these times, NUMU may emerge as a place where kids can replace those activities. Bravo again!

Although the floor plans designate the upper level for the art museum and the lower level for the history museum, Coscino says the two won’t be mutually exclusive. The point being, art and history might be connected or intertwined with each other.

“What we’re not going to do, is say, ‘Upstairs is art and downstairs is history,'” Coscino explained. “Because all those things are going to co-mingle. That’s the plan, on a macro level.”

Even better, NUMU is already forging partnerships and collaborations unlike any other museum in the South Bay. For example, one of the four exhibits opening next spring will reflect a partnership with the Grammy Museum in Lala Land. Coscino and Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli are curating an exhibit that tells the story of music, innovation and technology and its role and influence on popular culture. Coscino says she is excited about the opportunities such a collaboration presents for a brand new facility.

“It rarely happens that a museum develops out of almost nothing and gets an opportunity to develop itself,” Coscino said, adding that she believes the system is going to work. “We think we’re going to be able to bring significant exhibits here because of our power of collaboration, and our relatively blank slate, that will be of specific interest to the community and be a broader interest to the greater community around us.”

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