By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 17, 2020 at 9:30 AM

The Marcus Performing Arts Center has re-envisioned its Campus Master Plan in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown this spring, and work has begun.

The $4 million plan, with a series of renovations taking place in the first phase over the next six months, has been sparked by two big donations, including $1 million from Donna and Donald Baumgartner and a “major” gift from an anonymous donor.

The renovations will include, in the words of a Marcus Center statement:

  • Renovation of Uihlein Hall, including new seats, a new seating configuration utilizing multiple aisles, increased public health and safety amenities and enhanced ADA accommodations
  • 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.
  • Enhanced cleaning practices in all high-traffic patron and artist spaces with a focus on quality, efficiency, health and safety.

“We are extremely grateful for the commitment of Donald and Donna Baumgartner and our anonymous donor,” said Marcus Center President and CEO Kendra Whitlock Ingram. “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.

“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 master plan was released in 2018 and, thankfully, allowed for some flexibility, which has proved necessary in the face of the challenges presented by 2020.

Some of the work, including installation of new seats, has already begun.

“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.

The work will bring new life to the venue, which turned 50 years old in 2019.

“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.”

“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,” added Florentina Opera Company General Director and CEO Maggey Oplinger, another long-time 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.”


Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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.