Arts @ Large plans $6.2 million renovation of historic building

A rendering of Arts @ Large's planned renovation of the historic three-story building on the corner of Washington and 5th streets in Walker's Point.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:12 pm

Arts @ Large is moving forward with plans to transform a historic building in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood into the organization’s new home. 

The nonprofit, which provides arts education services for Milwaukee Public Schools’ students, has about $1.3 million left to raise in its capital campaign to renovate a three-story, 127-year-old building at the southeast corner of Washington and 5th streets.  

A rendering of Arts @ Large’s planned renovation of the historic three-story building on the corner of Washington and 5th streets in Walker’s Point.

Currently, the organization leases a 3,000-square-foot art gallery and office space at 908 S. 5th Street in Walker’s Point. The move to the new venue, which is just two blocks south of its current space, will provide enough room to accommodate the organization’s growing programs, CEO Teri Sullivan said.

Plans for the $6.2 million renovation include: a gallery that will showcase student exhibitions and performances, an art-making center, a public event space and culinary arts training center and cafe on the first floor; a professional development hub, hands-on art studio, nonprofit organization incubator studios and public event space on the second floor; and staff offices and additional studios on the third floor. The building will also feature a green roof and public event space.

Construction is expected to begin in August, with a grand opening of the new space expected in September 2018.

In addition to donations, the organization is receiving about $3.4 million in federal and state tax credits for the project.

The organization launched in 2001 as an effort to maintain arts education in MPS amid budget constraints. It initially enjoyed grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, but that federal funding was eliminated after three years. The organization became a nonprofit in 2005. 

Today, it serves 44 schools and more than 12,000 students across the city, Sullivan said.

“We’ve grown exponentially and we’re going to be in a huge, amazing space soon,” she said.

Sullivan said the organization is committed to building up the “creative corridor” along 5th Street. 

“We’ve really become very embedded in this community,” she said. “So when this building became available, we couldn’t believe that it was two blocks south of where we are right now, because Walker’s Point is the heart and soul of where we operate and gather from across the city.”

The new space will allow the organization to expand its workshops and classes for adults, as well as its emerging nonprofit incubator program.

Through that program, the organization will provide a year of free rent to four budding nonprofits. Two nonprofits have already signed on, including Lotus Legal Clinic, which serves victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking, and Reflo, an organization aimed at providing solutions for sustainable water use, green infrastructure and water management in urban environments.

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