Shelburne Museum opens year-round attraction - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Shelburne Museum opens year-round attraction

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SHELBURNE, Vt. -

With 45 acres of historic buildings and exhibits filled with fine and folk art, the Shelburne Museum is a top attraction in Vermont.

"I think it's very pretty and we're very excited to explore it," said Lily Chynorny of Pennsylvania.

But this tourist hot spot only operated seasonally from May until October-- that is until now.

"We wanted it to have monumental scale on Route 7. There are 20,000 cars that go by and it's obvious there's a museum here now," said Tom Denenberg, the director of the Shelburne Museum.

After five years of planning, officials say a new 17,000-square-foot art and education center will bring this museum into the 21st century. It will stay open all year.

"It's a four-season building, so it's open year-round," Denenberg said. "It's a big deal for Shelburne and the community. We all know you get cabin fever and now we'll have a place to go."

"My grandmother says the snow comes up to her eyeballs in the wintertime," Chynorny said. "We can come here in the winter and potentially walk through the snow up to our eyeballs."

The $7.4 million building is divided equally between educational and exhibition spaces.

"This is a 135-seat auditorium," Denenberg said. "This lets us become a community center for Shelburne and greater Burlington. We'll have lectures, symposiums, a jazz series."

The first exhibition will show off some of the favorite pieces from museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb's collection.

The contemporary-style building is energy efficient and uses many local materials, including granite from across the lake and Vermont slate.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Why make such a modern building?

Tom Denenberg: The decision was made to build a building of this moment rather than compete with historical structures.

But that contrast seemed strange to some visitors.

"After looking at the quainter historical buildings, I glanced there and moved on," said Roz Becker of Maine.

Gina Bullard: I see kids here with backpacks.

Tom Denenberg: Absolutely, this is the classroom and it's a space we're very, very proud of.

With a year-round facility, museum officials hope to provide more access to schoolchildren.

"I really think this is the heart of the building. This is why we bought this building, so Shelburne can reinforce itself as an educational institution in Vermont," Denenberg said.

Currently, 100,000 people visit Shelburne Museum each year. Museum officials expect the art and education center to increase that number by 25,000 to start, eventually jumping to 150,000 visitors a year.

"The building is going to be a real game changer for us," Denenberg said.

Galleries will be changed out every 6-12 weeks. The art and education center officially opens this Sunday. Admission will be free that day if you want to check it out.

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