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Museum adding garden with local couple's gift

July 21, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN

heatherk@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts broke ground Wednesday morning on a garden renovation project that will transform the museum's lakeside lawn in Hagerstown City Park with new landscaping, a new path, a central circular seating area, new external lighting, and improved drainage and irrigation.

"The garden will be a public asset that complements the investment that the city has made in recent years to this area of the park," museum director Joseph Ruzicka told a gathering of museum affiliates, city officials and guests.

Landscape architect and project leader Donna Brightman said she anticipates the garden will be complete by early fall. Workers from Ellsworth Electric began work after the ceremony Wednesday and Brightman said the site's electrical preparation should be finished this week. Next, workers will begin the actual excavation, grading and "hardscape," or nonliving elements, such as the path and seating. Planting will follow, but might be delayed if the weather is too hot, Brightman said.

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The lawn is part of a 3.3-acre plot of land maintained and controlled by the museum through a long-standing agreement with the city, Ruzicka said. Several designs for gardens have been submitted since the museum was constructed in 1930, but all fell through for one reason or another and the land has remained a grassy lawn with a few trees, bushes and a gravel path.

The project, budgeted at $100,000, was made possible through a donation from Howard Kaylor, vice president of the museum's board of trustees, and his wife, Anne Kaylor.

"My wife and I are lifelong natives of Washington County and we've enjoyed the park and the museum over many years," Howard Kaylor said at the ceremony. "The city has recently transformed this area of the lake and done a very fine job. Now the museum will turn this lakeside lawn into a lakeside garden, which will be worthy of the surroundings."

Kaylor said he envisioned the garden as a serene place where residents can read, stroll and enjoy the scenery, and Ruzicka said the museum hopes to eventually host outdoor events like concerts or poetry readings in the garden.

Designers also worked with Gordon Anson, the National Gallery of Art's lighting expert, to design a system of six lights, flush with the ground, that will illuminate the museum's facade with a "soft coolish light," Ruzicka said.

Brightman, whom Ruzicka called a "local landscape genius," went through several designs over the course of about three years before producing the final version.

The challenge, she said, was to find the right balance between designs for public use and museum use. She said she wanted to create something that "really complements the existing facade of the museum, helps with some of the existing drainage issues that we're dealing with, is a modest maintenance concern and also is a beautiful addition to possible activities, fundraising and just a beautiful strolling garden for the community."

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