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MAC campaign in reach of goal


The Monroe Arts Center will host a series of open houses to present more information about its planned restoration and expansion project to the public.

MAC is located at 1315 11th St., Monroe.

The open houses will be:
• 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 7
• 4 to 6 p.m., Friday, Aug. 13
• 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 4

MONROE - The Monroe Arts Center (MAC) has received a gift of $250,000 from The Swiss Colony for its Building Monroe's Cultural Legacy: The Legacy Campaign.

The board of directors of the MAC and MAC Foundation have developed a plan calling for the restoration and rehabilitation of the exterior of the parsonage, exterior and interior of the church, and the construction of a new addition.

MAC occupies the Old Methodist Church, built in 1869, and its parsonage, built in 1887, on 11th Street, two blocks from the Square. Both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Both were designed by Edward Townsend Mix, a 19th-century Wisconsin architect of national prominence.

"We are so very grateful for this lead gift from The Swiss Colony," says Julie Wilke, president of the MAC Board of Directors. "It's a giant step forward toward our goal."

John Baumann, president and CEO of Colony Brands, says it is in the company's interest to see that this project is successful.

"Monroe is an exceptional community with an arts center providing for the visual and performing arts for more than 30 years. We need to recruit and retain a highly skilled, knowledgeable, professional workforce and the Monroe Arts Center is of great assistance. And we see it holding more importance for this purpose in the future."

MAC has been working on the project for several years.

"Over the past five years, we have developed a strategic plan for the organization and a master facilities and utilization plan; we have commissioned an Accessibility Study, Historic Structure Report, and a Campaign Feasibility Study," said Chris Wellington, co-chair of The Legacy Campaign.

"We have also engaged The Kubala Washatko Architects from Cedarburg, and have completed both concept designs and floors plans for the new building all under the guidance of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We have done our homework, and we feel we have a project that sets Monroe apart."

MAC received a challenge grant of $750,000 from the Jeffris Family Foundation of Janesville in September 2007. The 3-year grant requires a 2-to-1 match or $1.5 million. The Swiss Colony gift has the campaign closing in on the $1 million mark.

"We have raised two thirds of the match and need the final third by the end of this September," said Ron Spielman, co-chair of The Legacy Campaign. "If Tom Jeffris, president of the Jeffris Family Foundation in Janesville, sees sufficient value in this project to make this large a grant, the largest in Monroe's history, surely there are others within the community or more closely connected to the community who will step up."

The price tag of the overall project is more than $3 million and the campaign goal is to raise another $500,000 for the MAC Foundation to ensure the sustainability of the new facilities.

Co-chair Kevin Callahan said he is committed to the project.

"We need full accessibility to the arts center and this project provides it. The new building will be easily accessible with easy drop off and pick up at the entrance; it will contain an elevator providing wheel chair accessibility to the Gunderson Stiles Concert Hall, and sufficient and accessible lobby and restroom space."

Co-chair Dave Babler, who has been associated with MAC from the beginning, has watched the arts center grow over the past several years and thinks it's time to improve and build the facilities.

"Six years ago the arts center's budget was well under $200,000 and today it is more than $300,000 and growing. This is impressive growth, especially during these economic times. It is a real tribute to this community that it can support the arts at this level and it also warrants the most serious consideration from everyone to support this project."