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Posted on: June 16, 2021

Manhattan City Commission Approves Museum of Art and Light

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Manhattan, New York, is known as a center for the visual arts around the world. Will Manhattan, Kansas, soon be seen in a similar light?

If businesspeople Bob and Tracey DeBruyn are successful in their quest to build the Museum of Art and Light in Manhattan’s downtown district, there could certainly be an enormous buzz about the city throughout the art world.

The DeBruyns, founders of The Master Teacher in Manhattan, are working with city leadership on a strategy for a public/private partnership to construct a state-of-the-art facility that will be the first of its kind in the United States. The $43 million project will combine a world-class art collection along with digital exhibits and programs similar to what can be found at the at Atelier des Lumières museum in Paris and in traveling exhibits around the U.S.

“It’s like being inside a painting,” Tracey said. “It’s just kind of an incredible experience.”

The new museum would join the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on the Kansas State University campus as premier art museums in the Kansas community. The Beach Museum has grown to nearly 10,000 objects since its opening, focusing on art of the Flint Hills region. If estimates are correct, more than 100,000 visitors will visit these museums annually.

“Manhattan recognizes that in order to attract the best and brightest, we have to have a collection of diverse cultural amenities,” said Jason Smith, president and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “People are constantly amazed when they make their first trip to Manhattan to see the vibrancy and activity in this community. The DeBruyns’ work on this new museum will continue to add to that dynamic in a significant way, and we appreciate their vision and generosity.”

The Manhattan City Commission approved the use of Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bonds for construction of the facility near downtown and adjacent to the Manhattan Conference Center and the Flint Hills Discovery Center. STAR Bonds are a tool created by the state of Kansas to help cities develop major projects in their community. Manhattan previously used STAR Bonds to facilitate a $50 million downtown redevelopment plan, and the opportunity to extend the financing was presented because of the success of the current district and early payoff of the bonds.

Organizers will create an endowment from private donations to fund long-term operations, hoping to raise more than $20 million from private sources. The anticipated opening date will be in 2023.


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