As unseasonably cold weather continued its grip on Milwaukee Monday, with the first snow predicted to arrive later that evening, the Marcus Performing Arts Center held an indoor unveiling of its renovated Community Grounds, which included a rededication of its War Memorial.
The Marcus Center’s master plan, announcing interior and exterior renovations, was released in 2018.
To create the plan for the 1969 venue, at 929 N. Water St., the Marcus Center worked with HGA architects, GRAEF (landscape architecture and civil engineering), CG Schmidt Inc. (construction) and Schuler Shook Theater Consultants, and sought input from patrons, vendors, resident performing arts groups and community members.
The center upgraded its main venue, Uihlein Hall, with new seating, the addition of much-needed extra aisles, HVAC equipment and more. That work was completed in 2021.
The now-completed exterior work has created an at-grade lawn in front of the Peck Pavilion, where the Dan Kiley-designed sunken chestnut grove long stood – before being removed in 2019 – running along the south side of the building on the Kilbourn Avenue side.
The site is now fully ADA accessible.
A series of cafe tables occupy crushed stone borders that flank the lawn.
Next to the pavilion is a new video screen that will display performances that are underway on the stage, and rotate advertisements for events when the pavilion stage isn’t in use.
Also on the site are a number of native perennial gardens that connect to a perforated bio-filtration pipe to the storm sewer that runs under the lawn. The gardens slope away from the sidewalk to encourage absorption of storm water into the ground.
Of course, having just been planted and it being autumn, the garden plantings don't yet look like much, but they should take root and start to shine next spring.
Exterior light fixtures are said to have also been replaced to provide more illumination, but I was unable to note any difference when I visited.
But the main feature of the unveiling was the new war memorial at the southeast corner of the site on Water and Kilbourn, where a pair of flag poles stand adjacent to a pavement circle bearing the phrase, “to honor & remember.”
The memorial includes benches and wheelchair cutouts.
Mayor Chevy Johnson noted that after World War II, Milwaukee sought to build arts and culture institutions as war memorials, “to honor the dead by serving the living.”
The one at the Marcus Center – which was, for many years, called the Performing Arts Center – “will be a year-round gathering space for people of all walks of life to enjoy for many years to come.”
Here are more photos of the space today...
War Memorial seen from above
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.