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The Nevada Museum of Art's penthouse opens up a new space to the public in early March, promising one-of-a-kind views from the fourth floor and a space to host special events ranging from meetings to weddings. While it officially opens to the public on March 5 with a members-only event, it will offer stellar views to museum visitors from the outdoors patio, too, when events are not planned, thereafter.

"This is the most creative, most unique venue that you have available to you in this region," said Amanda Horn, director of communications at the Museum. "You don’t get these views anywhere else. I think it changes the flavor of an event when you have it in an art museum. It really ups the ante and it makes it something special."

That upstairs space, called the Fred W. Smith Penthouse after the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Chairman of the Board of Trustees, now includes a new 4,800 square-foot Nightingale Sky Room that has retractable glass walls, LED ceiling lights, unique wall paper and flooring, and a state-of-the art acoustical system.

"We did not spare any detail in doing this room," said Horn. "The price tag grew. Initially, we though it was going to be about $5 million, but when it came down to knowing what was possible, we decided we really wanted to raise additional funds. We wanted to do it right and it worked out."

The Sky Room is a vision based upon the Sky Room that once was atop the former Mapes Hotel in Downtown Reno. That historic hotel was imploded in 2000, but was a formative part of Reno's history. The Museum's penthouse covers the entire top floor – the fourth of the Museum— and was built on the idea that the space could be better used and accessed by the public, particularly given its unique and stunning views into South Reno and the Sierra Nevada.

"We need to use this more because it can bring so much more value not just to the museum, but to the community," Horn said. "It can really function as a public square, as a place where ideas are born."

Architect Will Bruder and Clark/Sullivan Construction helped to carry out the penthouse vision, which also includes 5,000 square feet of outdoor space called the Stacie Mathewson Sky Plaza. With the new Sky Room available for use, however, the space becomes accessible year-round for events, whether for indoor or indoor-and-outdoors use.

"It was important to go back to the same architect and to go back to the same construction crew who have been with us since the beginning," said Horn. "It was important for it to feel organic and really be a true extension of the architecture that was already here. But, I mean the idea is really to be up here 365 days a year."

Some of the features to the new penthouse and Sky Room include:

* banquet kitchen that was important to creating a seamless space so that the downstairs restaurant, Chez Louie, could remain open and function and the museum could be open to visitors, while events occur on the fourth floor. The kitchen allows the food to come right out on the top floor and for service to occur right there.

* Large glass walls that can open up to the front and sides, creating an open-air environment when the weather is warm and accommodating, according to Horn. And, when it's not, the doors can be closed, but people can still head outdoors and find warmth from the heat lamps. The glass walls, whether open or closed, allow for the fantastic views to be appreciated year-round.

* An acoustical system in the Sky Room, featuring 47 speakers in-laid into the walls. "We worked with an acoustical engineer and design firm out of San Francisco, who are really pioneers in their field, in order to design this space to that it was truly built for an excellent acoustical experience," Horn said.

She added that the conductor for the Lake Tahoe SummerFest, who plans to host an event there, visited the Sky Room and was "blown away" by the acoustics. "He said this was the best acoustical venue in Reno, and that was really awesome," said Horn.

* LED lights in the ceiling that can be changed in color and hue to help set a certain tone for an event or gathering. "The LED lights are energy efficient, but they change colors so they can be cool, they can be warm," said Horn. "They have blue hues, or violet and pink hues, depending on what you want to do. It really adds to the ambience of your event, and we have a really dynamic events teams here."

* In-cut wood flooring that mimics the same type of flooring that Henry Ford used in his first auto factories to help reduce vibration.  "It's a process that is tried and true," Horn said. "It's historic, and it's interesting to see this historic flooring material juxtaposed with a very contemporary architectural feel."

The wallpaper also features lines and a print based on the geothermal activity that occurs under the building. There are electric curtains and a movable stage, and with a theme that is overall modern and sleek in tone, it's anticipated that the penthouse will be a revenue generator for the Museum in years to come.

"We are a privately-funded nonprofit so we are constantly fundraising and that is not going to change, but we have big things that we do. And what we do is expensive," said Horn. "… We're going to have live in here for a while before we really know what works and what doesn't, but we do project a 300 percent increase in revenue from this space. That's the goal. We think that is going to happen."

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