The Milwaukee Art Museum is pushing for a $25 million project to improve the War Memorial Center. The Art Museum occupies about 70 percent of the War Memorial Center buildings, which are adjacent to the winged Santiago Calatrava-designed addition to the Art Museum.
The Art Museum plans to raise $15 million in private funds for the project and is asking Milwaukee County to commit nearly $10 million for the cost of deferred maintenance to the buildings, which are owned by the county.
The Art Museum also wants to take over management of the War Memorial Center buildings, Keegan said. The buildings would still be owned by Milwaukee County.
Milwaukee County Supervisors Michael Mayo and John Weishan today issued sharp criticism of the Art Museum's plans, but said they will work to find an "equitable agreement."
"The veterans I've talked to do not want to be blindsided by surprise attacks. The War Memorial used to have a good relationship with the Milwaukee Art Museum. This recent turn of events has taken a lot of veterans by surprise," said Mayo, vice-chair of the War Memorial Board. "We must look beyond these disagreements, however, and work with the War Memorial and the Art Museum to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for all parties."
"Residents may not be aware that the Art Museum doesn't pay Milwaukee County for the use of the War Memorial Center, or that the county provides a $200,000 cash subsidy to the Milwaukee Art Museum every year with no strings attached," Weishan said. "On top of that, the county also pays all of the utility bills for the permanent galleries and office areas housed in the War Memorial Center. If the Milwaukee Art Museum would simply start paying its utility bills, the county could instead invest in the building to update the crumbling infrastructure. When you add up all of the county's support to the Art Museum over the last 15 years, including the parking revenue we lost when the Calatrava addition was built, the discounted parking for Museum employees, and the equipment/infrastructure upgrades we funded, Milwaukee County has provided several millions of dollars in revenue opportunities for the Milwaukee Art Museum."
"Our top priority for the War Memorial is to continue the mission of honoring the dead by serving the living," Mayo said. "Although I am against this hostile invasion of the War Memorial, we do have an opportunity to make this a win-win for the residents of Milwaukee County."