Museum of Wisconsin Art Announces Plans for Cultural Campus  

Reimagined Outdoor Community Space to Create Regional Destination and Hydrangea Haven

September 6, 2017
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WEST BEND, Wis. (September 6, 2017): The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) is pleased to announce plans to create a valuable outdoor community space and national destination in the heart of downtown West Bend. The Cultural Campus will be located on a four-acre site that includes MOWA’s existing building and all of the surrounding green space east of the Milwaukee River from HWY 33 to Water Street. The landscaping design will transform the space with groves of Quaking Aspen trees, 1,200 white hydrangeas, luminous nighttime up-lighting, and interconnected walkways.

In 2016, MOWA purchased two additional acres of land south of its existing building from the City of West Bend. The area had been vacant since the former Field’s Furniture building and outlet mall was demolished in 2007. This area will become the centerpiece of the Cultural Campus with walkways and adjacent bridges that connect the site to the downtown. Also in 2016, MOWA created a Cultural Campus Committee to work on the purchase and related fundraising for the property in question and to identify the needs and goals for the new campus. Among the objectives that have been identified are the following:



  • Orient the campus toward the Milwaukee River to increase visual aesthetics and sight lines; 
  • Maintain sufficient green space to accommodate special events and fundraisers (tent capacity up to 550 people), festivals, and programs;
  • Incorporate interlocking sidewalks to enhance wayfinding and connect campus, museum, parking, public bike path, and downtown district;
  • Create a regional destination;
  • Create a multipurpose courtyard on the east side of the museum building;
  • Incorporate lighting and electricity for enhanced functionality and security; and
  • Integrate a state-of-the-art irrigation system and maintenance plan. 

MOWA selected architect Jim Shields of HGA to lead the project. Shields led the design of MOWA’s new 32,000-square-foot facility which opened in April 2013. He has developed the Cultural Campus concepts and will oversee the project in its entirety. The Cultural Campus will:

  • Orient the building and its surrounding spaces toward the Milwaukee River;
  • Feature groves of Quaking Aspen trees that will frame and accentuate the museum’s building;
  • Create a lively and luminous city center with up-lit trees and walkways;
  • Interconnect with sidewalks for both wayfinding and meandering; and
  • Connect physically and visually with two bridges crossing the Milwaukee River, to provide additional access to and from the downtown business district. 
Additional design elements include:
  • Relocation and redesign of the current handicap accessibility ramp to connect to the main pedestrian bridge;
  • Electrical outlets to accommodate special events or seasonal lighting;
  • Fields of long-flowering hydrangeas to create a destination for garden enthusiasts, receptions, and photographers;
  • A tree-framed courtyard to serve as a space for intimate gatherings, weddings, dinners, and activities;
  • A reconfigured parking lot with the current number of spaces to be preserved to accommodate visitors to the museum and downtown businesses; and
  • Sculptures, iron-work trellises, and arbors by Wisconsin artists to further create a destination space. 

“The project is moving forward quickly and we hope to have all of the trees and plantings in the ground by early spring.” said Laurie Winters, MOWA Executive Director and CEO. “The campus will be an amazing community asset.”

MOWA aims for the Cultural Campus to become a national destination for its new hydrangea haven, particularly during the peak months of July through September. Hydrangeas are bold in look and feel and their visual impact will complement the white palette of the museum’s building. Their blooms will attract honeybees (Wisconsin’s official state insect), butterflies and hummingbirds. Landscape architect Judith Stark will oversee the softscaping elements, irrigation system design, and will develop an ongoing maintenance plan. Stark will consult on the selection of hydrangeas to maximize visual impact and growth.

The museum’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the design on Wednesday, August 30, and the West Bend Planning Commission provided its first formal approval on Tuesday, September 5.
Jessica Wildes, Director of Communications and Marketing
jwildes@wisconsinart.org, 262.247.2266