Nearly 70 years ago, Mary John Sullivan and Fredrick C. Miller joined forces to ensure that Milwaukee would be one of the first cities in the country to have a professional theater based in its community. Knowing that a world-class city needed both professional sports and theater, shortly after bringing Major League Baseball to our city, Miller Brewing CEO Miller would team up with Milwaukee Rep founder Sullivan to create our first home on Oakland Avenue – the Fred Miller Theater.
Over the decades, we would grow into one of the largest theaters in the country and the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin, serving 300,000 people including 20,000 students annually with 700 performances coupled with award-winning educational programming. However, we are facing a critical challenge. While it has served us well for four decades, our aging and inefficient Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex severely limits the productions we stage, the plays we develop, and the kind of educational impact we have — and will soon jeopardize our mission.
Therefore, we have embarked on the which will define the standard of theater in Wisconsin for generations to come. The Campaign will fund the creation of the new Associated Bank Theater Center, including three state-of-the-art performance spaces, a large unified lobby providing ample opportunities for community events, an expanded offsite production center employing hundreds of local artisans, and venues with modern audience amenities.
One of the more exciting new features will be a robust arts education center housed within the new complex to expand our highly impactful student programs. Milwaukee Rep is one of the largest providers of arts education programs in the Midwest focusing on literacy, critical thinking and social-emotional learning. Our award-winning programs improve both hard and soft skills necessary for future employment and post-secondary education. The new complex will allow us to meet the growing needs of our community and schools on our waiting list.
In addition to education impacts, the Associated Bank Theater Complex will:
- Strengthen Milwaukee’s brand as a hub of creativity and innovation by allowing us to tour popular productions around the world and to Broadway.
- Attract talent and new audiences by building on our growth and creating exceptional, highly in-demand work on par with the best theaters globally.
- Be Milwaukee’s most inclusive and accessible cultural destination allowing us to best serve persons with social, cognitive and/or physical disabilities.
- Drive increased economic activity attracting tourists, young professionals, and new residents expanding our current $30 million annual economic impact on Downtown Milwaukee.
In the last twelve months, we have been busy and we’re pleased to share the following progress:
- EUA and Hunzinger Construction have completed conceptual designs, a phased construction plan and renderings for the Associated Bank Theater Complex.
- We raised nearly 60% of the $75 million campaign goal including 100% participation from our Board of Trustees due in large part to the generosity of our Founders Circle.
- An all-star team of nearly 100 trustees and community leaders is leading the effort to create our new home, including campaign co-chairs Tammy Belton-Davis, Bill & Sandy Haack, Jeff & Sarah Joerres, and Craig & Mara Swan.
It’s been nearly 40 years since we have called upon our community to give generously to ensure that Milwaukee continues to have theater that produces exceptional art, inspires people, cultivates community and ignites education. Now, we need to make that ask.
We invite you to learn more about our Powering Milwaukee Campaign and how you can participate here.
Together, we can power Milwaukee — our theater, our community, our future!
Board of Trustees