Academy Museum on Track to Hire Architect, Raise $100 Million

The Academy Museum's two newly appointed managing directors say the long-delayed project is now on the fast track. A $100M fund-raising campaign is underway

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is two weeks away from announcing its architect and six months away from meeting its initial $100 million goal and launching a public fundraising campaign, according to its two newly appointed managing directors.

Heather Cochran and Bill Kramer, who were named to the newly created posts on Wednesday, told TheWrap that they expect the long-delayed but recently revived museum project to have a full head of steam by the winter of 2012, with the financing secured and design and concept sketches made public.

May Co. building at LACMACochran, who has served as Museum Project Administrator for the Academy since May 2004, was promoted to Managing Director, Academy Museum Project, a position from which she will help develop and execute an overall vision for the museum.

Kramer was named Managing Director, Development after overseeing fundraising efforts for the Sundance Institute, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, the Columbia University School of the Arts and VH1's Save the Music Foundation. He will direct the museum's fundraising efforts.

"With Heather and Bill in place, the Academy is poised to move the museum to the next phase and beyond," said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a press release announcing the appointments. "Each brings a wealth of experience that will be critical as the museum project continues to gather momentum."

Also read: Dawn Hudson: New Academy Museum on Fast Track

Bill KramerIn an interview with TheWrap, Kramer (right) said that AMPAS is "currently in the silent phase" of its fundraising campaign, which kicked off when the Academy made a deal with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to locate the Academy Museum in the historic May Company building on the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles.

LACMA owned the building but agreed to lease it to the Academy, which found that its decade-long effort to build a museum from scratch in Hollywood had stalled when the economic crash of 2008 doomed its chances to raise the estimated $350 million-$400 million that the hugely ambitious project would have required.

Cochran said that AMPAS is now "a couple of weeks away" from announcing the architect who will design the new space. Once the announcement is made, she added, "we’ll have a six-month concept and design phase."

While that phase is going on, Kramer will work with Walt Disney Co. president and CEO Bob Iger, the chairman of the museum's capital campaign, and with co-chairs Annette Bening and Tom Hanks.

"We need to raise $100 million in commitments by October," he said, "so we've been dealing with the [AMPAS] governors and with industry, corporate and foundation partners."

At this point, he said, the fundraising is going "exceptionally well," with a number of multi-year commitments.

"We definitely expect to make the $100 million goal – and at that point, we will go wide with our campaign and reach out to a much larger group of people."

Cochran (below) added that she hopes the launch of the public fundraising campaign will coincide with the public unveiling of the concept and design sketches that the architects will be developing over the next six months.

Heather CochranIn the meantime, she said, many of the ideas developed for a museum in Hollywood remain relevant for the new space – and she was recently able to cross one item off her longtime wish list of museum exhibits.

"Right when I started in 2004, we did an analysis of the iconic artifacts that we'd really want for the museum," she said. "And the ruby slippers from 'The Wizard of Oz' were one of them."

With the help of a group of "angel donors" that included Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg, the Academy was able to purchase a pair of those slippers at auction in February.

In the meantime, the Hollywood site once earmarked for the Academy museum is itself almost ready for its public debut. AMPAS has built an open-air amphitheater just north of its Pickford Center on Vine Street, on the block that would have contained the museum had fundraising not dried up.

The first test screening on the site is now scheduled to take place in April, with an Academy screening series beginning in May.

"We always looked at the Hollywood site as a place where we could do cultural programming," said Cochran. "And that's what we're now going to do."

(Photos by Todd Wawrychuk/AMPAS)