Eisner Museum to live on with educational outreach

The Eisner American Museum of Advertising & Design announced recently that it will close its facility located at 208 N. Water St., Milwaukee, once the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) constructs its new dormitory in the Historic Third Ward.

The museum will continue to operate and display its exhibits on its web site. And although the museum’s brick and mortar facility will be closed, it has big plans to continue its educational outreach goals.

“The museum as an institution is not going away,” said Bill Eisner Jr., president of the Eisner board. “We have always had the goal of being an educational beacon in the community. We just haven’t had the resources to be able to do everything we wanted. We’re thinking of this redirection as the second decade of the Eisner.”
Elaine Eisner, wife of the late William Eisner and founder and benefactor of the museum, partnered with MIAD 10 years ago to form the Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design. She gave the lead gift that allowed MIAD to purchase the building located at 208 N. Water St. That gift gave her naming rights to the building and occupancy space for the museum as long as MIAD owned it.
“It sounded too good to be true,” Elaine Eisner said. “I’ve always dreamt of setting up a museum in my late husband’s name, and when the museum opened that first year it was everything I could dream of and more.”
The direction for the museum’s future began to change in July of 2009, when MIAD notified the Eisner Museum board of directors of its intent to build a new dormitory and eventually sell and vacate the building at 208 N. Water St.
“The building is expected to change ownership sometime in 2011,” Bill Eisner said. “We had to start thinking about the future of the Eisner and look at additional opportunities for us as an institution.”
The Eisner board of directors has begun planning an educational outreach curriculum for the community on all educational levels.
“It is going to encompass everyone from middle school students to professionals working in the field,” Bill Eisner said.
“There is such an opportunity for this institution to be a leader in the creative arts, not just in advertising and design but in all aspects of communication,” Elaine Eisner said. “We have a very talented board of directors, and with their help I think there is opportunity for the Eisner to do more than try to get the community to come to us. I think now there is a lot of opportunity for us to reach out to the community and go to them.”
The Eisner Museum currently hosts portfolio reviews and seminars for college students, but the Eisners hope to expand those relationships further by working with local colleges and universities to help fill any voids in their curriculums.
The Eisner as an institute should be looked at as a resource for the community, Bill Eisner said. The museum wants to start planning college speaker series and organize collaborations with schools and local organizations like the Business Marketing Association, the American Marketing Association and the Public Relations Society of America.
“There are many great things that could come out of partnerships like that, both on a university and professional industry level,” he said.
The Eisner board of directors has begun planning a corporate level learning curriculum centered on social media and experiential marketing. The program would be sponsored by and presented to Wisconsin corporations. The board hopes to roll that program out before the end of the year, Bill Eisner said.
The Eisner Museum has been functioning as a nonprofit organization since the Eisners took over staffing the museum from MIAD seven years ago. Enhancing the educational outreach of the Eisner Museum will also create many more opportunities for the institution to receive grant money and program funding, Bill Eisner said.
“Eventually we would like to establish introductory curriculums on advertising, design and communication in middle and high schools in the area, particularly in the MPS system.” he said. “Expanding our opportunity to receive grant money would help us create those programs and establish creative contests for students to become involved in.”
Beginning on Wednesday, March 31, The Eisner Museum will no longer be open to the public at 208 N. Water St.
“It was a little bit of heartache originally,” Elaine Eisner said. “But when I look at all that could be accomplished, all the good things that can happen here I’m pretty excited about it.”
The museum will continue to host educational, corporate and social events in the museum space through 2010, but we will begin shifting its focus to its education and community outreach, Bill Eisner said.
“It is the goal of the board to really position the museum as a catalyst for new trends in the world of advertising and communication in general,” said Al Krueger, partner at Milwaukee-based Comet Branding and a member of the Eisner Museum’s board of directors. “With everything in that atmosphere changing so quickly, and with everyone’s resources stretched so thin because of the economy, the board really had to look at the fact that a physical brick and mortar facility may not be the most ideal advocate for our new mission.”

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