Discover how the photographs in Portrait of Milwaukee continue to reflect Milwaukee and its community. On December 5, 2019, local residents created a living library inside the exhibition and shared personal stories that relate to specific works on view.
Entering a darkened fort to make fluorescent paintings glow under a black light, twirling ribbons so they dance through the air, and making snow angels and jumping into piles of packing peanut “snow”—these are just a few of the fun-filled experiences our youngest visitors have had at Play Date with Art. Once a month, from September through May, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Windhover Hall is transformed into a dynamic, interactive space where children ages 5 and under can enjoy hands-on projects and a joyful romp in the light-filled prow that overlooks Lake Michigan.
This is your art museum. And I am delighted and proud to share with you today that we have set course on a direction that allows us to respond to our changing times and makes it possible for you, your friends, family—all people—to see yourselves at the Museum and better understand your world through the art we hold in public trust for you.
The Museum’s staff, board, and volunteers, together with the Museum community, committed more than a year to ask the hard questions, consult with peer institutions, and study today’s evolving landscape to shape this new strategic direction, a framework for the Museum moving forward. We last released what we referred to then as a strategic plan in 2006. This is an exciting moment. Yet I want to be clear: our work does not end here. We now call on your active involvement to ensure we continue to make progress—and do so boldly.
The Museum has taken bold action in the past. Shortly before my arrival, the Museum completed its first-ever major reinstallation of the collection; added a new lakeside entrance for visitors, more places for people to gather, and an additional changing exhibition space; and introduced the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, making Milwaukee a national destination for photography, video, and light-based art. Undoubtedly the most memorable leap, however, came in 2001, with the hiring of Santiago Calatrava to design our iconic building—the United States had yet to see a work by the Spanish architect erected on its soil, let alone one that could move. But not everyone in our community feels welcome within the arms of these steel beams that rise impossibly to great heights. In turn, we will be more intentional in how we invite and welcome the residents of our city, the region, and the world to discover something great, and perhaps to imagine the impossible through the experiences they have with the art and each other here.
A quote by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton summarizes the unique power of art: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” And it is here, at your Milwaukee Art Museum, that we want you to find friends old and new, to find inspiration; to lose yourself in reflection, and to lose yourself with family while finding connection with others and their families—to feel welcome to return again, whenever the mood or moment strikes you, and so that the Museum feels like your place for socializing, for restorative quiet, for robust engagement.
This is your art museum. Our transformation is beginning. I invite you to keep watch and visit often, and tell us what you think. I invite you to join us on this journey.
Marcelle Polednik, PhD Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director
Windhover Hall is transformed into a winter wonderland this holiday season, with 40 new art-inspired snowflakes on display through the first week of January 2020. Museum staff collaborated with local artist Fred Kaems to create nine unique snowflake designs, inspired by popular works of art in the Museum’s Collection. Read on to learn more about the creative process, from the artist himself—and see the final designs up close!
How did you select the artworks that are featured on each snowflake?
FK: I wandered through the Museum’s Collection, after having talked about the project with David (Exhibition Designer, Milwaukee Art Museum) and Alison (Design + Brand Lead, Milwaukee Art Museum); I tried to see every piece. I was looking for unique shapes that might translate well into these cutouts. I snapped photos of more than 100 pieces that caught my eye, and looking them over, I narrowed down by about half.
We are so proud to call ourselves Milwaukeeans—and we know many of you are, too! This holiday season, give your loved ones creative gifts that feel like home. From locally made products to exclusive designs, the Museum Store has something for every proud Milwaukeean on your list. Check out some of our favorites below.