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Saving Some Milwaukee Cultural Institutions Could Mean Reducing Their Physical Footprints

Linden Eller
Milwaukee Magazine
Stagnant budgets and mounting financial needs have led to some painful decisions for some of Milwaukee's cultural institutions. And saving them may require reducing some of their physical footprints.

The Milwaukee Public Museum and the Mitchell Park Domes are two of the most recognizable institutions in Milwaukee. But they’re also among the most beleaguered in recent history.

Stagnant budgets and mounting financial needs have led to some painful decisions — and Band-Aid solutions are no longer enough to keep them operating. They are in need of some serious changes, as Larry Sandler wrote about in an article featured in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine.

For the Milwaukee Public Museum, Sandler says part of the issue is the sheer size of the building. It takes a lot of money to maintain the facility, and part of the solution could mean building a space with a smaller, physical footprint. 

"If you have a smaller place it’s not only easier for the public to get around, but it’s also easier to maintain. You have lower heating and cooling bills, and you can run it more economically," he says. 

As for The Domes, Sandler says the cost of maintaining them has to do with their unusual structure.

"The construction is really unlike what you would see in any other place, just the fact that ... they are geodesic-style domes and so you've got all of this glass that's curved. You know, it's not easily replaced and the concrete structure to hold up all that glass requires a lot of maintenance," he explains.  

It's still unclear what the final solution for these spaces may look like because it's unclear what is feasible given budget constraints. What is clear: these historic spaces will require a lot of money to be maintained and improved in the future. 

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect.