Under Construction: Building the Postal Plaza Gallery

It’s been months since I shared an update about the Postal Plaza Gallery—but not because nothing has been going on! Like every building project, there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes.

The Postal Plaza Gallery in downtown Stillwater.

Our architects, Elliott & Associates, were working with the knowledge they gained from the exploratory demolition to design galleries, art storage, and classroom space that took advantage of—and showcased—the building’s unique character. OSU staff in Long Range Facilities Planning were working with the architects, construction management company, museum staff, and university administrators on budgets and timelines. The OSU Foundation was working with the museum staff, donors, and the Art Advisory Council.

We’ve seen the design phase through to the point that construction has begun on the Postal Plaza Gallery! I stopped by the Postal Plaza during the first week of September, just as Manhattan Construction was taking charge of the site. The new fence emphatically announced their presence.

Manhattan Construction is using the south parking lot as a staging area during construction.

With complete designs, some basic changes happened straight away. For example, one of the vaults is being removed to make space for a conference and study room.

Removal of the small south vault will make room for a conference room-sized workspace.

A couple of weeks later, I was having lunch downtown and noticed some activity, so I went and investigated.

As they hung the gallery image, members of the construction team paused to examine the structure of the sign itself.

Readers who have been following the blog for a while might recognize the image on the sign: it is one of the renderings created by Elliott & Associates early on in the design process, and displayed during our January kick-off event.

The new Postal Plaza Gallery sign: we’re official!

In partnership with the re-opening of the Student Union, we recently held a Scavenger Hunt, asking participants to find art installed across campus. One of the prizes was a hard hat tour of the Postal Plaza—which gave me an excuse to show off the changes that were starting to appear inside the building!

View from the catwalk: cut-outs that echo the 1933 building’s original skylights are visible just above our heads, high over the main gallery space. Photo by Jonathan Lacaba (scavenger hunt winner).

Project Manager Jay Cheves, from OSU’s Long Range Facilities Planning office, graciously worked with last-minute student and staff schedules to organize our two prize-winner tours. When we arrived, hard hats and safety glasses were laid out in preparation for a thorough exploration of the site.

View of the lobby from the main gallery, with hard hats lined up by the front door. Photo by Jonathan Lacaba.

Even as the building is transformed, we are working to protect the historic elements—from the Grace Hamilton mural to the decorative moldings and iconic windows.

View through one of the Postal Plaza windows. Photo by Jonathan Lacaba.

Everyone is working hard to keep construction moving ahead on schedule—which, according to Jay, means we’ll be seeing dramatic changes every couple of weeks. I will do my best to keep the updates coming!

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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