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Milwaukee Art Museum Reaches Fundraising Milestone to Clear Debt: Pledges announced to hit $25 million


Posted on May 20th, 2005

Milwaukee, WI, May 20, 2005— The Milwaukee Art Museum announced today that it has reached the $25 million milestone in its efforts to pay off the debt incurred in the construction of its internationally acclaimed addition designed by Santiago Calatrava. Sheldon B. Lubar, President of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, led the final phase of the fundraising effort.

“We have reached a new level of philanthropic and community support, which has also elevated the appreciation of what the arts can mean to a community,” said Lubar. “We are much more than the architectural wonder that has awed the community and a nation; we are a symbol of the artistic achievement that enriches everyone’s lives.”

“With the inspired and tireless leadership of our President, Sheldon Lubar, and the growing outpouring of support from our community, we have moved to a new level of excitement, enthusiasm and artistic excellence at the Milwaukee Art Museum,” said Museum Director and CEO David Gordon. “We have achieved the philanthropic support that some thought impossible.”

Gordon praised the work of Lubar, who took on the task of raising the debt remaining from the construction of the exciting new Calatrava addition at a time when the economy was struggling and many observers questioned whether any more money could be raised for the Museum’s largest capital project in history. Lubar’s strategy was to make pledges conditional on reaching a milestone of $25 million by the end of 2005. These pledges now come due. Interest on the debt amounts to a further $3.8 million and fund-raising continues to clear that.

Gordon said there was a generous response to the fundraising effort, with many donations; among those making the most substantial donations were Chris Abele, Donald and Donna Baumgartner, Michael J. Cudahy, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Herzfeld Foundation, Marianne and Sheldon Lubar, Betty Quadracci, The Reiman Foundation, Sue and Bud Selig, Lynde Uihlein, David and Julia Uihlein, and Carlene and Andy Ziegler.

The Museum has featured a series of inspired exhibitions since the Calatrava-designed building opened, ranging from Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland to The Quilts of Gee’s Bend and the current highly successful exhibition Degas Sculptures . This summer the Museum will have two major exhibitions on at the same time: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880-1920 from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum’s first video art exhibition CUT/Film as Found Object .

The addition of a new chief curator, Joe Ketner, who starts on June 1, has added to the anticipation of future high-caliber exhibitions including those that show the Museum is willing to try new and exciting things to inspire and challenge its audiences. Ketner comes to Milwaukee from the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, where he has been Director for the past six years. He will be curating a show of neon and fluorescent works by Bruce Nauman next winter.

The Calatrava-designed expansion has received worldwide acclaim and has become a premier tourist destination in Wisconsin. Recently, the building was chosen as the symbol for the City of Milwaukee and its promotion efforts.

“For many thousands of visitors to Milwaukee and Wisconsin from around the world, the Milwaukee Art Museum has become the first stop and the gateway to other attractions around our community and state,” said Lubar. “The excitement and inspiration of this wonderful structure has helped elevate the understanding and support for the arts in our metropolitan area and our state.”

“For all of us at the Milwaukee Art Museum this is not the finish, but the beginning of a new era of enthusiasm and achievement for the arts,” said Gordon. “We are dedicated to fulfilling the potential that so many hardworking and generous people have created for us with the expansion.”

Notes to editor:

•  The new building and related costs totaled approximately $125 million. The first phase of fundraising generated $100 million in private funds. Expenses included the design and construction of the new building and bridge, landscaping and gardens, endowment, refurbishment of the old building and galleries, reinstallation of art, and interest on the debt.

•  The Milwaukee Art Museum has received numerous national and international honors since the completion of its expansion in 2001. The Museum was awarded Time magazine’s “Best Design of 2001.” USA Weekend titled MAM one of the five most important buildings of the 21st century. In 2002, the Museum was named among the “New Wonders of the World” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. In 2003, MAM was designated one of three “New American Beauties” by PEOPLE magazine. Most recently in 2005, Smithsonian magazine named MAM one of “Seven Special Places to Visit This Summer” in its Destination America feature.

  • The Museum’s expansion includes the Cudahy Gardens designed by world-renowned landscape architect Dan Kiley. This extraordinary network of gardens, hedges, plazas and fountains complements the Calatrava-designed building.

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