By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 07, 2024 at 2:23 PM

As Milwaukee Public Museum reaches the 70 percent mark on its fundraising goal, it hosted a ceremonial “groundbreaking” event Tuesday at The Trade Hotel in the Deer District, a block from the site of the Future Museum, which will be located on the northeast corner of 6th Street and McKinley Avenue.

Although the plan was to have shovels in the dirt at the actual site, rain and forecasted thunderstorms drove the event indoors, where dignitaries and students from Indian Community School and MPS' Oliver Wendell Holmes School, posed with shovels.

With the dull grey, foggy skies visible through the windows of the hotel’s second-floor Founders Ballroom, Native American Cultural Speaker and Educator Mark Denning introduced a blessing before MPM President & CEO Dr. Ellen Censky spoke, joined by Milwaukee Public Museum Board Chair, Northwestern Mutual Executive Vice President & Chief Distribution Officer John Roberts, who welcomed the packed room to the "climate-controlled groundbreaking."

Roberts and Censky
John Roberts and Ellen Censky address attendees at Tuesday's ceremonial groundbreaking.

Denning said the Future Museum will be, "A place where we can learn about our natural world. It will be a place of healing."

Local dignitaries taking part included Mayor Cavalier Johnson, County Executive David Crowley and State of Wisconsin Secretary of Administration Kathy Blumenfeld, along with numerous city, county and state legislators.

Four local groups – Indian Community School, Hmong American Peace Academy, Bruce-Guadalupe Community School and Ko-Thi Dance Company.– performed at the event, too.

A groundbreaking will be held on the Future Museum site tomorrow for staff members. Invitees who could not be present at Tuesday's event will get a vial of soil from the site.

Work clearing the 2.4-acre site of three building began in the summer of 2022 and continued the following spring. The third and final structure came down later in 2023. There is still, however, some demo work that will be completed after the groundbreaking.

This includes removing footings and concrete.

Construction is slated to begin on the five-story, roughly 200,000-square-foot museum in mid-June, though much of the work will be below ground until autumn. That’s when you’re likely to start seeing progress above ground.

The new museum is expected to open in early 2027.

So far, the Milwaukee Public Museum has secured $165 million, which is 70 percent of its total fundraising goal, with three years remaining on the campaign.

You can see details on the building’s architecture, previews of major exhibition spaces and more here.

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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.