The Bronzeville Center for the Arts (BCA) announced its vision for a world-class arts and culture center in the heart of Milwaukee’s Bronzeville District on February 2.
The BCA was recently selected as the top responder to an offer to purchase a 3.4-acre state-owned property formerly occupied by the Southeast Wisconsin DNR Regional Headquarters and Service Center of Milwaukee. If approved, the former DNR site will be BCA’s second investment in Bronzeville, joining the organization’s planned development at 507 W. North Avenue.
“This site has tremendous potential for the Bronzeville Center for the Arts,” said Kristen Hardy, a Milwaukee attorney and chair of the Bronzeville Center for the Arts board of trustees. “One day in the near future, we hope that visitors from across the city, state and nation will come to Bronzeville to explore African American art and art history in a way that fosters and inspire self-expression, the exchange of ideas and creative entrepreneurship.”
BCA’s proposed $1.6 million land purchase will be considered by the State Building Commission on February 9. The proposal will also need to be approved by the state’s Joint Committee on Finance. If approved, BCA would turn the site into a campus, including a 50,000 square foot facility that would serve as BCA’s main institution. The campus will feature exhibitions, education and immersive arts programming.
“The community is at the heart of this project,” said Della Wells, a Milwaukee-based artist and vice chair of the Bronzeville Center for the Arts board of trustees. “In the months ahead, we look forward to engaging partners, stakeholders and community members to learn how we can work together to create a shared vision for BCA – and make it a reality.
Construction on BCA’s first investment in Bronzeville will begin this spring, a $1 million redevelopment of 507 W. North Avenue. The North Avenue project will include the redevelopment of an existing duplex building as well as the construction of an addition that will span adjacent vacant land. BCA’s North Avenue development will house BCA’s gallery, studio space and offices.
“We have a great opportunity to increase our collective knowledge of African American art, art history, and artists,” said Mutòpe J. Johnson, a Milwaukee-based artist and project manager of the BCA. “The Center will be a true destination, celebrating the past while placing the art of the African diaspora at the center of the cultural consciousness of present and future generations.
BCA’s proposed programming for its future Bronzeville developments includes museum-quality visual arts exhibits; live and virtual educational programs, lecture series, panel discussions and seminars, which bring together artists, scholars, educators, community leaders, organizations and innovators to examine art history, dynamic art projects , career opportunities, creative entrepreneurship and issues of art and race, among others; hands-on art workshops that explore various techniques with an emphasis on teaching creative skills, as well as intellectual and professional development; and performances in the visual arts, music, dance and spoken word, among others.
“In addition to its local significance, BCA will have a major impact across the entire state of Wisconsin, and its programs will have national and global reach,” said Dr. Freida High Wasikhongo Tesfagiorgis, Evjue-Bascom Professor Emeritus. , UW-Madison. , artist and member of the board of directors and the planning committee of the BCA.