By Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter Published Apr 06, 2013 at 9:03 AM

After a decade in the making, the new home of the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) is finally opening to the public this weekend.

Saturday and Sunday, museum staff are inviting the public to take their first glimpse of the new West Bend facility at 205 Veterans Ave. in West Bend. The majestic structure designed by HGA Architects contains 12,000 square feet of gallery space.

Visitors can take advantage of free admission all day Saturday and can also attend the 11 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony. Sunday is Family Day, featuring live music, dance, storytelling, children’s art projects and refreshments.

The family-friendly vibe is something MOWA staffers are anxious to emphasize about the new space. "We wanted to come right out of the gate with a program for families on the opening weekend so people could see, in fact, we are family-friendly and it’s a great place to spend time with your kids," says Laurie Winters, Executive Director and CEO of MOWA.

The weekend, she hopes, is going to be "a transformational moment" for the museum, which has been in existence since 1961.

"It’s going to be an exciting weekend," Winters told "The museum has been 10 years in the making, so Saturday is really the culmination of that 10-year process of building a new museum. Not only is it a culmination, but it’s really a kind of transformation, because the new museum has changed its identity and it’s really becoming a museum that is a statewide organization."

Now that the museum has a new look, it’s also focusing on a new image. Winters - whose resume includes a 15-year stint as the Director of Exhibitions and Publications at the Milwaukee Art Museum - says she wants to concentrate on building a solid relationship with the visitors.

The first step in that is eliminating admission.

"A lot of museums make the mistake, when they do a new addition or do a new building, of not thinking about how the programs need to look," she said. "They spend so much time just focusing on getting their new facility open. When I joined the museum as the new executive director in November, we started to spend a lot of time thinking about the visitor and what kinds of programs we’re going to offer.

"We’ve done away with admission. What we’ve done is create memberships."

First-time individual visitors pay $12 and not only get admission that day but receive membership for a whole year, enabling them to visit the museum for free.

"That $12 is good for the entire year," Winters said. "You don’t have to pull out your wallet again."

It is consistent with the new message of MOWA: building engagement. Winters says that too many museums throw around loose rhetoric regarding "engagement" and "visitor experience." "I’ve decided that we need to actually walk the walk. Our focus is really on building a relationship with our members."

Exhibitions at the museum this weekend include "Antifragile: Contemporary Glass" (running until July 28), "Regniald Baylor: Repetitive Patterns" (until June 30) and a showcase by the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association (until June 23).

For more information, visit MOWA's website.

Colleen Jurkiewicz Reporter

Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.