By: Nora G Hertel
Renovation of the Wausau Club into a Museum of Contemporary Art would take five months and up to $200,000 but would draw tourists and build community pride, according to an updated proposal to the city.
Two Wausau committees voted unanimously Tuesday to give the Wausau Club building to museum developer and artist David Anthony Hummer. The full City Council will consider the matter on Feb. 28.
Hummer laid out detailed and updated plans in a Feb. 6 report for the city's consideration. The proposal highlights the economic and social benefits of the arts, the success of Hummer's studio in Wausau and the cost and parameters of the renovation.
Hummer would serve as the project manager during the renovation and take out a loan to cover construction costs. Those costs could reach $197,000 and include lighting and security, plumbing and ventilation, some demolition, 5,000 square feet of flooring and new walls, according to a construction budget shared with the city.
The museum's annual expenses would be an estimated $182,000, according to the budget report. Hummer would pay rent to the museum, because it would also house his business and studio, The Bauhaus. That rent would cover the construction loan. Other funding would come from fundraisers and naming rights to exhibit spaces.
Eventually the museum board plans to set up an endowment and pay operating costs with the interest from that fund. The museum already has a board of directors and would seek tax-exempt status if the proposal is fully accepted.
Hummer's initial proposal included renovation of the full Wausau Club building, which is owned by the city. Current plans involve refurbishing the main floor first and tackling the rest in later phases of development.
A floor plan for the proposed renovation of the former Wausau Club into a Museum of Contemporary Art, spearheaded by artist David Hummer. (Photo: Image courtesy of the city of Wausau)
The renovated main floor would have two gallery spaces, a gift shop, restrooms, offices, storage space and The Bauhaus.
Hummer moved to Wausau in 2008 and started The Bauhaus as a picture framing and art sales business on Washington Street. In 2010 he started to teach painting there. He now has more than 60 students, many of whom return each month for his workshop on oil painting, according to the museum proposal.
Hummer and his wife, Becky Hummer, own another downtown Wausau landmark, Allister Deacon's Coffee House.
Because of its 100-year-plus history and large footprint, the Wausau Club is a downtown marker. It was a social club and banquet hall in the 20th century. But it has been closed for more than a decade.
Converting the old building on McClellan Street into the Museum of Contemporary Art would be good for the neighborhood and the larger Wausau community, say museum supporters. It would stir community pride and draw tourists from northern Wisconsin and skilled residents to live and work here, according to the Feb. 6 proposal.
"It is our expectation the creation of the Museum of Contemporary Art will be an added destination in the River District to enhance and complement the growing arts community and Wausau area as a whole," according to the proposal. The museum, in conjunction with existing sites such as the Center for Visual Arts, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum and The Grand Theater, "will become a destination and can turn art into an export industry."