By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 22, 2021 at 10:31 AM

On Tuesday morning, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St., on the border between Bronzeville and Haymarket, will break ground in a virtual ceremony on a new expansion within its building, which is home to First Stage, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and other arts programs.

The 42,000-square-foot expansion in a currently unutilized part of the building, due to be complete by autumn, will add a pair of rehearsal halls, six studios and six small group instruction rooms on the lower level, allowing the MYAC to expand its services to school groups and community members from around the city, boosting its capacity by more than 20,000 students annually.

"We are excited to be ready for youth to come back with improved space and more of it," says Executive Director Del Wilson.

"(The) need will be greater than ever!"

Kyra Mathias, Brook Wisniewski and Chloe Lee get a head start on the demolition.

Upgrades will also be made to improve accessibility and lighting throughout the complex for improved safety and energy savings. A "significant upgrade" to Mainstage Hall is also part of the project.

MYAC also plans to renovate the old Baasen House / German YMCA building across the street, which it purchased in 2016 and most recently rented to a charter high school program.

The new expansion can be seen at left in this floor plan.

So far, MYAC has received $13.4 million in pledges toward the work and estimated New Market Tax Credits Net Benefit at $1.28 million.

Fundraising for the second (Baasen House) phase is ongoing.

If you’d like a peek into the current complex, which inhabits an old newspaper distribution building and a garage and cafeteria built by Schlitz Brewing, check out this Urban Spelunking story.

This lower level space is where expansion will occur.

You can also see inside the Baasen House complex in this one.

The 10 a.m. virtual groundbreaking on Tuesday, will include talks and performances by students that take part in First Stage and MYSO, and a ceremonial demolition of a wall.




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.