Tacoma museum begins expansion

Western American art collection will have a new home

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The Tacoma Art Museum broke ground Thursday on its $15.5 building expansion and renovation that will house a new Western American art collection.

German billionaires Erivan and Helga Haub, who are donating the collection along with $20 million, sat in the front row at the gathering of over 100 people on the museum's plaza. A cowboy lassoing a dummy steer and a country western band provided entertainment.

Groundbreaking began with a welcoming from Puyallup tribal member Connie McCloud. As members of the tribe's Canoe Family sang and danced Erivan Haub, wearing a bolo tie, whipped out a digital camera and shot photos.

"Our songs are the blessing for this land," McCloud said.

The renovation will include a new entrance and redesigned plaza on Pacific Avenue. Construction will begin in late October and is expected to be completed in Fall of 2014. The new 16,000 square foot expanse will effectively double the size of TAM's gallery spaces.

During a press conference before the ceremony son Christian Haub and his wife Liliane discussed why they chose Tacoma Art Museum as the home of the family's art collection.

"We thought it had to be somewhere where the family had a heritage," Christian Haub said.

Though based in Germany the Haub family has deep roots in Tacoma. Erivan Haub first visited the area in the 1950s before establishing a residency in the Gig Harbor area. Christian and his two brothers were born at Tacoma General Hospital.

Though they raised their boys in Germany the Haubs brought them back to Tacoma every summer.

"I have fond memories of spending summers in our childhood here in Tacoma," said Christian Haub in a slight German accent. "I learned how to water ski, fish, sail," the self-described diehard Seahawks fan said.

Fascinated with West

It was family advisor John Barline who first suggested TAM as the site of the family's collection.

"The icing on the cake was Stephanie," said Christian of TAM's director Stephanie Stebich. Stebich was born in Germany and speaks fluent German.

The elder Haubs have been working on their art collection for the past 30 years. They have donated 280 works to TAM.

"We all felt that this should be a collection that should not be broken up," Christian Haub said. "Once you decide on something like that you have to act on that."

Christian and Liliane Haub are leading the project for the family.

"We had hoped to get it done while our parents are still alive," Christian Haub said. He was dressed in a dark suit and sporting a large metal belt buckle that he said was from an annual rodeo held at his family's Wyoming ranch.

And why has a German family developed such a love of the American West?

"All German speaking people have a fascination with the (American) West," Liliane Haub said.

"This is a family that recognizes what the American West is," Gov. Jay Inslee said in his remarks at the ceremony. "It's a place where people come and feel free."