Grand Opening of New Museum of Wisconsin Art Provides Cornerstone For State's Rich Visual Arts Scene 

New facility, a work of art in its own right, represents the vision for institution’s future

March 21, 2013
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West Bend, WI – March 21, 2013 – On April 6, a major milestone in Wisconsin art will be celebrated with the grand opening of the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) in its stunning new facility. The 31,000-square-foot building houses the Museum and its collection, serves as a living showcase for art in Wisconsin, and plays a significant role in the revitalization of West Bend’s downtown and riverfront area. 

“We are the custodians of Wisconsin art – telling the story of our state by connecting creative arts with our cultural heritage – and we now have a facility that does justice to the compelling and growing contemporary arts scene in Wisconsin,” says Laurie Winters, Executive Director I CEO of MOWA. “While we showcase some of the biggest names in Wisconsin art, we see as equally important our role in cultivating our region’s artistic future and nurturing its next generation of artists.”

The new building, articulated in a Contemporary Modern style, takes on the triangular shape of the site – which was created by the meandering Milwaukee River – as its major form. It includes nearly 12,000 square feet of gallery space, approximately 7,000 square feet of facility rental space for special events, a unique gift shop with largely Wisconsin-made items, education studios, and an outdoor sculpture garden. It was designed by HGA (Hammel Green & Abrahamson Inc.) and built by Mortenson Construction. Both firms are nationally based and acclaimed, with dedicated offices and teams working in Wisconsin. 

“Art museums need to be unique and distinctive, not like the regular buildings of the city that surrounds them,” says architect Jim Shields of HGA. “Unlike the dark brick and stone buildings nearby, the new museum is composed of three almost imperceptibly different white panel colors that bring life and interest to its surface.”

Visitors to MOWA’s grand opening weekend will have the opportunity to see Antifragile: Contemporary Glass (through July 28). The exhibition, featuring work from some of today’s hottest glass artists, includes 17 nationally- and internationally-renowned artists who are based in Wisconsin. Viewers will marvel at the range of forms glass can take, from thought-provoking to simply beautiful. Also on display will be Reginald Baylor: Repetitive Patterns (through June 30). Fresh, colorful, and complex paintings have secured Baylor – named earlier this month as one of the Milwaukee Arts Board’s Artists of the Year – a place as one of the most original and recognizable artists working in Wisconsin today. 

The new building more than doubles MOWA’s gallery space, allowing the institution to showcase more of its collection than ever before. After five years in storage, a collection highlight back on display will be Carl von Marr’s enormous masterpiece, The Flagellants

In contrast to other museums, MOWA offers memberships at a lower cost with unlimited museum access. Visitors pay a $12 entrance fee and automatically receive a membership that allows them to return to the museum as many times as they want, whenever they want, for a full year, offering unlimited opportunities to see changing exhibitions and new works on loan throughout the collection galleries. Additional levels of membership are available that provide further benefits.

MOWA will advance its mission moving forward with the help of an advisory committee of working artists and other active participants in the Wisconsin visual arts ecosystem. Initial members of the committee include artist Tom Uttech; photographer Tom Bamberger; Nicholas Frank, an artist, writer and professor in the Integrated Studio Arts Program at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design; Jon Prown, director of the Chipstone Foundation; Truman Lowe, artist and professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Deb Brehmer, an art critic and director of the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee.

“One complaint frequently lodged against art museums is that they are insular and overly academic and fail to take advantage of the perspectives offered by people who are actually out there ‘doing’ art,” says Winters. “MOWA took an important step toward engaging the visual arts community when it put prominent Wisconsin artist Tom Uttech on its board of trustees. With the formation of this advisory committee, we’re moving further down the road."

Nestled along the banks of the Milwaukee River at 205 Veterans Ave., the new MOWA facility has provided a catalyst for investment along several of West Bend’s Tax Incremental Finance Districts.

“MOWA may well be the economic engine that provides a spark for downtown commerce this year,” says T.J. Justice, City of West Bend Director of Development. “Its impressive presence is now a cornerstone of the city's downtown infrastructure.”

Supported by a $750,000 loan from the City of West Bend as a part of its new facility development, the municipality is also investing in excess of $800,000 to build a pedestrian bridge over the Milwaukee River to provide connectivity to and from the museum and downtown businesses, events, and attractions. Both investments represent the city's belief that new commerce, tourism, and other benefits will position MOWA and the surrounding area as a regional art destination. 

“As we celebrate and look ahead, we’re extremely grateful to the City of West Bend and many dedicated and generous donors who have helped make the new building a reality,” says Winters, noting that the majority of the $10 million that has been raised to support the project and institution was from private donors. “The residents and businesses in our community and the region identify with MOWA, our mission, and the importance of art in our state. The new building and refreshed focus on contemporary art will no doubt attract visitors from throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, impacting the entire West Bend economy.”

As a thank you to the West Bend and Wisconsin arts communities for their support of the project, MOWA will be free and open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for the grand opening on Saturday, April 6. An official ribbon cutting and brief program is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.

A family day will follow on Sunday, April 7, with activities designed especially for families with children. Highlights of the day will include live music and dance, storytelling, children’s art projects, refreshments and more.  On Sunday, regular entrance fees apply. 

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About The Museum of Wisconsin Art 
Established in 1961, MOWA is Wisconsin’s only regional art museum and is the primary venue nationally for the exhibition of historic and contemporary Wisconsin art. It tells the story of Wisconsin by connecting creative arts with our culture and collective identity. The institution’s high-caliber exhibitions and dynamic leadership inform our region’s artistic direction, nurturing the next generation of artists while showcasing some of the biggest names in Wisconsin art. The museum is located at 205 Veterans Ave., West Bend. For general information, call 262-334-9638 or visit 
Jennifer Turner, Director of Communications and Marketing, 262.247.2266