The Marcus Performing Arts Center presented a re-envisioned Phase One of its Campus Master Plan to the public on September 17.

The $4 million project was made possible through the generous support of donors, including a major gift from an anonymous donor and a $1 million gift from Donna and Donald Baumgartner.

“We are extremely grateful for the commitment of Donald and Donna Baumgartner and our anonymous donor,” said Kendra Whitlock Ingram, Marcus Center President and CEO. “Their generosity will allow our organization to move forward with re-envisioned priorities, which will greatly enhance the patron experience in Uihlein Hall, make our facility more accessible to all and prepare us to emerge stronger post-COVID-19.”

In creating its Campus Master Plan, the Marcus Center provided for significant flexibility to adjust timelines and priorities. With the emergence of COVID-19 in the Spring, the Marcus Center embarked on a process to re-envision the plan. Renovations within Phase One will take place over the next six months.

“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 Whitlock Ingram. “Our visionary donors recognized this opportunity and stepped up to make this vision a reality.”

The re-envisioned Phase One will prioritize investments in physical spaces, and focus on the renovation of Uihlein Hall, new seats, a new seating configuration utilizing multiple aisles, increased public health and safety amenities, and enhanced ADA accommodations.

Also included in the plan will be the creation of a dynamic and vibrant new outdoor public space to serve as a forum for safe, accessible, and socially distanced programming for the Marcus Center, and its eight local arts resident partners.

“We enthusiastically support the remodel of the Marcus Center to not only invest in the future of Milwaukee’s performing arts community but to help create a more exciting and comfortable audience experience,” said Donna and Donald Baumgartner.

More coronavirus procedures will be implemented, such as enhanced cleaning practices in all high-traffic patron and artist spaces with a focus on quality, efficiency, health, and safety.

“The investments in the Marcus Center will revitalize the in-person audience experience, and our entire company is grateful for the generosity of these donors,” said Michael Pink, artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet, a long-standing resident of the Marcus Center. “We look forward to safely welcoming back our audience members to our live performances and showing off these transformative improvements at the Center.”

Along with investments in the physical space of the Marcus Center, Phase One will prioritize the installation of state-of-the-art livestreaming technology in all of its performance venues, as well as the Bradley Pavilion. The new technology will expand access to the arts for audiences across the state of Wisconsin, including educational institutions.

“A positive, memorable experience is an essential aspect of every live performance for theatergoers, and the Florentine Opera Company is thrilled to welcome back that experience in a space that prioritizes health and safety,” said Maggey Oplinger, General Director and CEO of the Florentine Opera Company, a long-standing resident of the Marcus Center. “The Marcus Center and these generous donors have demonstrated a commitment to creating a safe, re-imagined environment for all resident groups, and we are grateful for that commitment.”

The work is a continuation of an expansion of service started as a result of the pandemic. Over the summer, the Marcus Center transitioned to offer online programming, including Kidz Days at the Center, a free summer youth program that incorporates performing arts education into interactive participation.

As a virtual presentation, the program had more than 46,000 views through social media channels and website. The Center has also offered virtual concerts and events, including “Christopher Jackson: Live from the West Side” and the upcoming national watch party live via Zoom on September 21 of the John Lewis documentary “Good Trouble” with an accompanying national panel discussion.

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Lee Matz and Annia Hidalgo