Milwaukee Arts: Expect the Unexpected

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The Bronze statue of The Fonz is a popular art piece in Milwaukee.
The Bronze statue of The Fonz is a popular art piece in Milwaukee. Photo by Visit Milwaukee

Cheese. Check. Sausage. Check. Beer. Well, of course. Check.  When you visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you can expect these traditional favorites that have put this American Midwestern town on the map.

What you may not be expecting during your travel in Milwaukee is such a vibrant arts scene. But as sure as Harley Davidson rules the road, Milwaukee’s museums and artists are inspiring many to take a road trip to this city on the edge of Lake Michigan.

Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by Visit Milwaukee
Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by Visit Milwaukee

Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is already a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike. Annually, 400,000 visit this gem for the treasures on the inside and to take in the amazing architecture outside.

Its stunning setting along Lake Michigan certainly allows for great views, but simply viewing this “winged” building itself is a treat for the eyes.

What’s with those wings? According to the Museum, “The Museum’s signature wings, the Burke Brise Soleil, form a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan. The brise soleil is made up of 72 steel fins, ranging in length from 26 to 105 feet. The entire structure weighs 90 tons.

Inside the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by Visit Milwaukee
Inside the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by Visit Milwaukee

It takes 3.5 minutes for the wings to open or close.” The “wings” open at 10 a.m. in accordance with regular days of operation, close/reopen (flap) at noon, and close at 5 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thursdays). (Schedule is subject to change without advance notice due to weather/maintenance.)

The Museum completed a renovation in late 2015 of their permanent collection galleries to make way for new spaces. The additional 25,000 square feet of new gallery space allows for 2,500 works from the Museum’s Collection to be placed on view.

Visitors will now be able to see 1,000 more works of art from the 30,000 objects the Museum houses. The additional space includes a new changing gallery, at 4,000 square feet, bringing the exhibition space within the Museum to 156,000 square feet.

Also new within the Museum is the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, located on the lower level. Dedicated to the presentation of photography, film, video, and light installations, the center offers a twenty-first-century approach to exploring light-based media and covers 10,000 square feet.

The Grohmann Museum in Milwaukee. Photo by Visit Milwaukee
The Grohmann Museum in Milwaukee. Photo by Visit Milwaukee

Grohmann Museum

In the heart of downtown Milwaukee, you will find the Grohmann Museum. Dedicated to art depicting the working man (and woman), the Man at Work Collection showcases more than 1,000 pieces lovingly collected and donated by Dr. Eckhart Grohmann.

Paintings, sculptures and other works are on display inside a building which is part of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Not only is this a museum well worth a visit for its visual narration of the progress of work and industry through generations and the wonderful rooftop sculpture garden, this is currently a place of work and education. You’ll see offices belonging to School staffers lining the galleries.

The building itself is a work of art. On the corner of a city street, this modern structure has floor-to-ceiling windows in its entry and you will want to look down to see the mosaic created to highlight people depicted in other works. Look up to see the intricate mural on the ceiling with representations of true innovators. Over 400 years of history are documented with pieces from around the world depicted the evolution of work.

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