Milwaukee Art Museum-War Memorial deal unveiled

At Tuesday’s Milwaukee County Parks Committee meeting, officials with the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee County War Memorial Inc. announced that they have reached a tentative agreement regarding the ongoing management of the buildings and grounds occupied by both organizations.

Lead negotiators for both organizations finalized a term sheet last week. The term sheet must still be ratified by the boards of each organization and a variety of legal documents finalized and approved by Milwaukee County.

“We’re very pleased to announce that through committed negotiations by both the War Memorial Corporation and the Milwaukee Art Museum, we have reached a fair and solid agreement regarding the ongoing management of the buildings and grounds occupied by both organizations,” said Dan Keegan, Director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This agreement helps pave the way for the Art Museum’s planned $15 million investment and the county’s investment of $10 million.”

“This is a positive step forward for the War Memorial Corporation and we look forward to continuing our collaborative relationship with the Art Museum,” said American Legion state adjutant David Kurtz, on behalf of the War Memorial negotiations team. “The improvements planned through the support of the Art Museum and the County will ensure the War Memorial can continue its mission to honor the dead by serving the living.”

Highlights of the agreement include:
• Both the Art Museum and War Memorial Center will operate as legally independent organizations with separate governance structures. They will collaborate on some matters involving programming and events for veterans.
• The War Memorial Center will continue to manage, maintain and control spaces that it currently occupies, including the level one north entrance and third and fourth floors of the Saarinen Building and level two south entrance along with the Fitch Plaza/roof of the Kahler Building.
• The Art Museum will manage, maintain and control spaces it currently occupies in the 1957 Eero Saarinen–designed War Memorial and the 1972 Kahler building addition, along with the exterior of the lower portion of the Saarinen building and the entire exterior of the Kahler building.
• The Art Museum will move forward with plans for a $15 million renovation including gallery and building improvements.
• The North Tract – an area of land north of the War Memorial Center buildings including parking lots – will remain under lease to the War Memorial Center. Any future development proposed for the property by either the War Memorial Center or the Art Museum is subject to approval by the other party in addition to Milwaukee County.
• The War Memorial Center and the Art Museum will collaborate on a hybrid-engineering model supporting the separation of the campus mechanical systems.
• The War Memorial Center Art Museum will control revenue derived from their respective spaces/activities.

Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said that the accord between The Milwaukee Art Museum and The Milwaukee County War Memorial, Inc. is an important agreement that helps insure the long-term future of the buildings and grounds of both entities.

“I’m pleased that we could bring this agreement together,” she said. “It was important that we brought in former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske to mediate the discussion between the two groups. Justice Geske proved to be a key to successful negotiations, and I’m pleased that this historic agreement will clear the way for the Art Museum’s planned $15 million and the county’s planned $10 million investment for improvements. This agreement is a win-win-win for the Milwaukee Art Museum, the War Memorial and the residents of Milwaukee County, especially our veterans. We are grateful to Justice Geske and to the negotiating teams for their extraordinary and efficient work.”

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