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Seeing RMAC in a new light; Xcel Energy is donating $145,000 to improve lighting and energy saving

Executive Director of the Roswell Museum and Art Center Caroline Brooks said the museum faces a number of lighting challenges. Brooks said the lighting in this photo of the Patricia Gaylord Anderson Gallery is from the 80s. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Xcel Energy will be donating $145,500 to update the lighting at the Roswell Museum and Arts Center (RMAC) and the city of Roswell will be covering remaining costs to ensure the entire museum’s lighting is updated simultaneously.

“We’re just so delighted how generous Xcel Energy is and it’s a win-win in a lot of ways,” Caroline Brooks, executive director of the RMAC, said. “They’ll be able to showcase some of the lighting options that are available to other businesses, commercial locations and even homes as well as provide some education and outreach.”

Adding that Xcel Energy approached the museum last summer with the idea for the project, Brooks said the goal is for the relighting to be done within this year — while working around events and exhibitions. Brooks said J & G Electric will be doing the implementation of the project and she added that the company has “been great to work with.”

At the Roswell City Council special meeting on May 24, Councilor Juan Oropesa made the motion for the council to accept Xcel Energy’s $145,500 donation for the lighting in gallery spaces and to designate an additional $93,583 funds from the city budget for project completion including non-gallery areas of the museum. Councilor Jeanine Corn Best seconded and the council voted 7 to 0 to approve the motion. Three councilors were absent at that meeting.

Elizabeth Gilbert, city of Roswell’s director of administrative services, said the $145,500 will go toward new lighting fixtures and utilizing light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs and fixtures to save energy.

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Wes Reeves, the senior media relations representative for Xcel Energy, said the new lighting is estimated to save the city $14,000 annually. Reeves said Xcel Energy will provide 204 light fixtures for the 18 gallery spaces alone. Gilbert said the non-gallery spaces will also receive new lighting — this includes the Basset Auditorium, hallways, classrooms, storage and workspaces, along with courtyard and the exterior of the building.

For the benefits of LED lights, Reeves said the light bulbs can last 15 times longer than the current incandescent bulbs and also use 70-80 percent less energy. He added that LED lights can “provide better directional lighting, which makes them desirable in art galleries.”

Saying it was important to finish the entire museum at once, Brooks said the current light bulbs and fixtures are a mix of old and new lighting ranging from the ‘40s onward based on when the museum could afford improvements.

Since the RMAC building is over 81 years old, Councilor Best asked, at the May 24 meeting, if Xcel Energy and the city were prepared for extra surprises due to the age of the building that would ensue during the project. Gilbert said to her understanding Xcel Energy understood the whole scope of the work and extra costs were included in the project costs.

Reeves said retrofit will take place over the summer and an event in October is tentatively planned to showcase the new lighting.

For another project from Xcel Energy, Gilbert said the company intends to install a permanent educational exhibit on energy efficiency and the funding is separate from the RMAC lighting project. Brook said the plans are developing for the family interactive gallery and it will be “fun, engaging, and educational at the same time.”

Mayor Dennis Kintigh asked if the plans to move the museum store would conflict with the lighting project. In response to Kintigh’s question, Director of Brooks said the museum plans to have fundraising in the fall to move the museum store closer to the entrance. Brooks said the Xcel Energy exhibit would be where the gift shop now stands and the project’s completion date will be a few years from now.

Gilbert also said Xcel Energy will be contributing $10,000 to the RMAC’s Arts and Science Festival in October to match the Science Festival Alliance grant. Brooks said the science, technology, engineering, art and science (STEAM) festival has been in planning for over a year and expects the $20,000 festival will be bigger than the Art Block Party and Chalk Art Festivals in the past.

“I think STEAM is such a popular topic,” Brooks said. “It has been for a few years now and the community is just like — hungry for doing something like this. So we’ve done a couple of family science nights the last May and the May before that — that Amanda (Nicholson, the museum’s curator of education) put together and we’d have 400 to 500 people coming to that on a Thursday night and that kind of just says something.

“One aspect is that we just want to make science and art fun and engaging — and make it really inspirational for kids and their families.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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