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MAC expands art footprint
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MONROE - A major building addition has doubled the size of Monroe Arts Center at 1315 11th St. and positions the facility as a regional destination for visual and performing arts, according to a news release.

Expansion plans began a decade ago. Completion of the $3.75 million project coincides with the art center's 41st anniversary celebration. Two phases of the project remain. A future phase of renovation will update the lower level of the church and demolish a 1950s addition. The project also includes the rehab of the parsonage, now used for music lessons and recitals.

The original arts center was the First Methodist Episcopal church, whose sanctuary hosted occasional classical music concerts. Now the nonprofit enterprise has mushroomed into a block-long arts precinct with room to showcase more of the area's virtuoso talent, especially in the visual arts.

A transparent, two-story walkway links the 1869 church to the $3 million addition. Another $750,000 investment updates infrastructure (accessibility and restrooms) and revamps a concert hall in the original arts center, but maintains historical integrity.

The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and was designed by Edward Townsend Mix, known for Gilded Age architectural work throughout the Midwest. The late Peg Stiles is credited for saving the church and parsonage from demolition and establishing Monroe Arts Center in 1976.

The expansion project demonstrates a deepening of Monroe's commitment to the arts by providing bigger and more flexible art galleries, better spaces for public receptions and classrooms for teaching art, especially to children. Also possible is a sculpture garden.

The Kubala Washatko Architects of Cedarburg designed the new building. In Madison, the firm designed the Children's Museum and the addition to the Unitarian Meeting House. C.G. Schmidt, with offices in Madison and Milwaukee, served as the construction manager for the new addition. C.G. Schmidt built the Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the new addition to the Monroe Clinic.

The September events hint at the range of audiences served. Events include the Sept. 2 gallery exhibition opening of "A Sense of Place: Wisconsin Landscape Photographs" by Regina Flanagan, Peter Latner, Jill Metcoff and Zane Williams; singer/songwriter Ken Lonnquist in free performances for all ages at 11 a.m. Sept. 3, Oct. 1, and Nov. 19; and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Sewell, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10.

MAC is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit or call 608-325-5700.