The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts set aside the morning of November 14 to honor and memorialize veterans who served the United States, both in times of conflict and in times of peace, by unveiling the completely renovated community gardens and the rededication of its War Memorial.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Marcus Center has been focused on redeveloping key areas of its campus. After completing the renovation of Uihlein Hall last fall, efforts shifted this year to finish the Outdoor Community Grounds renovation.
“Milwaukee is proud of our rich history with the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Post-World War II, several groups in Milwaukee convened to create a Memorial for our Milwaukee veterans through the lens of cultural facilities that were devoted to the ‘arts of peace.’ As a result, the War Memorial Corporation was founded, which to this day, sits on Lake Michigan,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson. “At that same time, community visionaries came together to create an anchor for the city’s growing and rich performing arts and culture.”
In addition to the existing inscription on the south side of the building, the Marcus Center installed an additional memorial tribute on the southeast corner of the Outdoor Community Grounds. It features an expression of gratitude with the words “To Honor & Remember” as a gold inlay in a circle with benches on each side of the memorial to provide an area for reflection. Two flag poles fly the American flag stand on either side of the memorial.
“This Memorial was created to ensure that future generations remember and honor the pride and dedication of those served, the legacy they continued, and the freedom they preserved. Our liberties and values remain safe today because of the brave individuals who answered the call and faced the fire. We are eternally grateful for and thank our veterans for their service, particularly those in our region,” said Kendra Ingram, Marcus Center President and Chief Executive Officer. “We dedicate this site as a place where people will gather to share memories and as a place where people can reflect in solitude. We dedicate this memorial in acknowledgement of those who have sacrificed for our freedom in the past and for those who have yet to come.”
At the end of May, the Marcus Center broke ground on its exterior renovations. The effort kicked off a new phase of its Campus Master Plan by planting of 24 honey locust trees. With an emphasis on accessible community gathering spaces, the re-envisioned grounds were designed to provide an open, park-like setting and enhanced ADA accommodations.
“As we began looking at the work to be completed on the Outdoor Grounds, it was not only important for us to create a public gathering space for our community in downtown Milwaukee, but it was also a top priority for us to highlight our rich history as a dedicated War Memorial and with the Milwaukee County War Memorial,” said Board Chair Raymond L. Wilson.
The renovated Community Grounds feature a crushed stone border sealed with a waxed polymer for wheelchair and stroller accessibility so all community members, regardless of ability, can enjoy the public space. There are also bench cutouts for wheelchairs at the War Memorial and wheelchair seating at café tables.
The renovation expands the lawn area just east of the Peck Pavilion, providing additional space for public use in warmer months. The lawn has an unobstructed view of the newly installed screen at the Peck Pavilion, where visitors are able to relax and enjoy outdoor performances.
The native perennial gardens were created to incorporate a bio-filtration element on the slant from the sidewalk to the back wall for natural absorption into the ground. A perforated pipe is buried at the bottom and connected to the storm sewer, which runs east to west under the main lawn. In addition, the replacement of existing light fixtures provide better visibility and illumination.
Established in 1969, the Marcus Performing Arts Center (MPAC) is the premier performing arts community gathering space in Southeastern Wisconsin, bringing high-quality arts and cultural programming to the region. It is also home to a variety of resident arts partners, including First Stage, Milwaukee Ballet, Florentine Opera Company, Black Arts MKE, and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra.
“Today, we expand upon this legacy and will continue to Honor the Dead by Serving the Living as we remember those who have served our country with the dedication of our new War Memorial on the newly renovated Outdoor Community Grounds,” added Mayor Johnson.