With dignitaries and politicians on hand, the Ellen Noël Art Museum celebrated a milestone Tuesday breaking ground on a little over $16 million renovation that will likely be finished in 2025.

The event was marked with a champagne toast, remarks, the groundbreaking and brunch. CBS 7 anchor Jay Hendricks was the emcee.

The capital enhancement project started in 2019. The original goal was $12 million, but after fundraising efforts began the community experienced the mass shooting, COVID and the oil bust, which resulted in delays and price increases.

Campaign Chairman Austin Keith said support for the renovations is strong and the project is now coming to fruition.

“We’re breaking ground on a vision,” Keith told audience members.

In an interview before the event started, he said everything in the museum will be updated.

“This building is a little over 35 years old and it needs to be updated because now you have to have zoned areas in your gallery. You have to have fire suppression systems; you have temperature control; humidity control, so everything is going to be brought up to date for a functioning Smithsonian-affiliated art museum,” Keith said.

Keith added that the museum benefits Odessa and Midland and communities in between with its programs for the communities and the schools.

He has served on different boards in the community and was approached to help with fundraising.

“They sold me on the idea once I saw the statistics about art (being) so important to our students and our children and our community itself, I said this is a win-win. Odessa has to have culture. It’s not just about Odessa, it’s about the whole Permian Basin,” Keith said.

Ellen Noël Executive Director Sheila Perry noted that it’s been a long and complicated road to get to this point.

“Our lives have been pulled and pushed over the last five years in ways that none of us would have ever imagined. What I would say is West Texas, we endure. We have resilience like nowhere else so we’re still standing … It is because of the people in this room and the people in this community and the people in the Basin,” Perry said.

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, makes remarks at the Ellen Noël Museum groundbreaking for its capital enhancement project Tuesday. He said art and culture is something that makes a community great. (Courtesy Photo)

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf said, before his remarks, that culture is something that makes a community great.

“We are a hardworking oil and gas community here in Odessa and we’re very proud of that. That’s our identity, but it’s also good to have some contrasts and have arts and culture, too. It also brings a lot of visitors to our community. It’s a great asset for us to have,” Landgraf said.

Having a bigger and better Ellen Noël Art Museum, he said, is great for Odessa because it attracts a lot of visitors, provides opportunities and it’s just a great place to “enjoy some good art every once in a while.”

He added that he and his wife, Shelby, have an 8-year-old daughter who loves going to the Ellen Noël Art Museum.

“She’s involved with a lot of programs that they have and she loves it. When I was a child, I went to some of the child’s play events at what was then the Art Institute of the Permian Basin, so it’s something that our family has really taken advantage of. It’s going to be a beautiful new building. We’re excited about that, but then just the new programs and opportunities that are going to be offered by the great staff at the Ellen Noël Art Museum is also going to be fantastic,” Landgraf said.

Courtesy Photo

Glenn Rogers, president of the FMH Foundation Board, said Marie Hall, who established the foundation, had two main areas that she particularly wanted to focus on — health and the arts.

“Marie was a great believer in planting seeds, nurturing it and watching it grow. That’s what she liked to do and so we feel in a way like we’re planting a new seed today,” Rogers said. “I know the museum already exists, but it’s going to be a major addition so we’re not only helping to plant the seed, but we’re helping to nurture it and to cultivate the arts out here as it grows,” Rogers said.

Veronica Dickson, senior grant manager at the FMH Foundation, said Tuesday was a tremendous day.

“It’s been a long time coming. I know they tried to launch this campaign before the pandemic hit and they have just been relentless in their efforts. We’re finally here. It’s finally happening. It’s a huge day,” Dickson said.

Lee Lewis is the construction manager at risk; Parkhill is the architect; and Steve Patton of SP Design and Consulting LLC is the project manager.