Marcus Center moving forward with phase one of renovations

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The Marcus Performing Arts Center said it has received funding to move forward with a planned renovation of its Uihlein Hall and create a new outdoor public space on its downtown Milwaukee campus.

The Marcus Center announced it has received a $1 million lead gift from Milwaukee philanthropists Donna and Donald Baumgartner, a major gift from an anonymous donor and a grant from the Herzfeld Foundation to fund the $4 million project at the center, located at 929 N. Water St.

A rendering of the renovated seating in Uihlein Hall.

Phase one of the project includes the renovation of Uihlein Hall, including new seats, a new seating configuration utilizing multiple aisles, increased public health and safety amenities and enhanced ADA accommodations; the creation of a new outdoor public space that will allow for socially-distanced programming; and enhanced cleansing practices in all high-traffic spaces. The renovations will take place over the next six months.

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Marcus Center leaders said they have “re-envisioned” their campus master plan, which in 2018 was unveiled as a three- to five-year effort to improve its campus, in light of COVID-19.

“Despite the challenges of being shut down because of COVID, we recognized that we also had a unique opportunity to reinvest in our most important interior performing space, while the building is closed,” said Kendra Whitlock Ingram, president and chief executive officer of the Marcus Center. “Our visionary donors recognized this opportunity and stepped up to make this vision a reality.”

The center, which was opened in 1969, is home to the Milwaukee Ballet, Florentine Opera, First Stage and a variety of community events.

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In addition to investments in the physical space, the first phase will also include the installation of live-streaming technology in all of its performance venues, as well as the Bradley Pavilion, to expand access to audiences across the state.

Over the summer, the Marcus Center transitioned to offer online programming, including ​Kidz Days at the Center,​ a free summer youth program focused on arts education. The center has also offered virtual concerts and events, including ​Christopher Jackson: Live from the West Side​ and the upcoming national watch party of the John Lewis documentary ​Good Trouble​ with a national panel discussion.

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