Milwaukee Youth Arts Center showcases expansion and renovation

To expand its ability to serve children in Southeastern Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center dug deep, transforming lower-level storage space in its former industrial building into new rehearsal rooms, studios, and theaters. instruction.

MYAC unveiled its internal expansion on Wednesday, honoring donors Keith Mardak and Mary Vandenberg by renaming its building at 325 W. Walnut St. the Mardak | Vandenberg building. Mardak and Vandenberg, former president / CEO and vice president of Hal Leonard Corp., donated $ 5 million to make the project possible, the closing giveaway of a campaign that raised more than $ 14 million .

Jointly created by First Stage and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, MYAC opened in 2005. They remain its flagship tenants, but Danceworks, Festival City Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Children’s Choir, Bel Canto Chorus and Frankly Music also use the installation.

Strengths of the expansion and makeover:

  • Two new rehearsal rooms, six studios and six small group training rooms bring the respective total of these facilities to seven rooms, 15 studios and eight training rooms.
  • The Goodman Mainstage Hall features circular seating for 142 people and technical black box-style theater equipment, providing MYAC with two venues where it can host full-fledged performances.
  • As part of a lighting upgrade, fluorescent lighting has been replaced with dimmable LEDs, both for cost savings and to create an improved environment for people with the autism spectrum.
  • Hearing aid technology has been added to both performance venues.
  • Cameras, sound and projection equipment were added to increase the capacity of groups for live broadcasting and digital meetings.

Mardak and Vandenberg also donated three works of art to the installation, including “The Big Round Sound”, a sculpture by Richard Taylor that can be seen in the MYAC front yard by people walking down West Walnut Street.

FOLLOWING: First stage actors and young symphonic musicians learn from the pros at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

During a tour of the building, MYAC Executive Director Del Wilson pointed out many small touches, such as a new ‘dirty studio’, a specific room where first-stage teachers can work with children on manual work and other messy activities.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, MYAC typically served around 700 people per night, Wilson said. As social arts activities have gradually picked up, the current number is 250 to 300, he said.

But leaders of MYAC groups expect demand for their programs to continue to increase. Linda Edelstein, executive director of MYSO, said there is a long waiting list for its Progressions program, which introduces Milwaukee third and fourth graders to stringed instruments.

Mardak stressed the importance of involving a diverse population of young people in the performing arts. He and Vandenberg are also big supporters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee; part of the financial support they provide to these clubs enables children to access MYAC programs.

Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.

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