German expressionism. American decorative arts. Among the nation's best American art post 1960. The Milwaukee Art Museum is a leading American institution for the work of self-taught artists and holds one of the largest collections of works by Georgia O’Keeffe and other artistic luminaries in four floors of the 341,000-square-foot museum. Encompassing more than 25,000 pieces, the museum's collection ranges from 90 works of Haitian art and 450-plus German expressionist prints to an expansive contemporary art selection that includes pieces by Andy Warhol. Among the more singular holdings in the more than 40 galleries are the earliest surviving American-made chair.
Temporary and traveling exhibitions pass through each year, spotlighting everything from Rembrandt to color photography. Upcoming highlights include tattoo art, nineteenth-century portraiture, and, in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the abstract paintings of Wassily Kandinsky. Delve deeper into works on display during lectures and talks, part of a packed events calendar that includes concerts and film screenings. Visitors can also flex their own artistic muscles during programs such as kids' and adult art classes.
On June 30, 1904 Col. William and Anna Vilas donated a tract of land to become a public park and free recreational space in memory of their son, Henry, who died due to complications from diabetes at a young age. They added numerous improvements over the decade and in 1911, the Henry Vilas Zoo gained its first animal exhibits. Today, the zoo covers 30 acres and features a number of creatures from around the world, ranging from the vanishing chimpanzee and endangered red panda to locals such as the great horned owl and american alligator. The zoo also remains one of the few free AZA-accredited zoos across the country.
Leading up to and following the zoo's centennial, the ReZOOvenation project has expanded the visitor areas, replacing the entrance and gift shop and adding a tropical-rainforest aviary and big-cat complex. A variety of annual events are scheduled, including Halloween at the Zoo, with costumes and stops for sustainable palm-oil candy, and earth day, when children can plant trees to help lower the global temperature just enough for icicles to form. The zoo’s many conservation projects also engage the public in protecting the environment and its inhabitants by installing solar-energy panels, sponsoring trips to save endangered orangutans, and collecting old cell phones.
Heritage Hill State Historical Park is a living-history museum, dedicated to the preservation of buildings and artifacts of Northeast Wisconsin and its citizens. The 50-acre park houses carefully reproduced greenery and actual log cabins and buildings from the 1800s, such as a U.S. military fort hospital and a fur trader’s cabin, where mammals of all shapes and sizes would trade their dusty old pelts for feature-loaded furs. Heritage Hill State Historical Park also proudly displays a collection of more than 11,000 artifacts, including original artwork, books, clothing, and furnishings. To truly bring Wisconsin history to life, volunteers representing a way of life interact with park attendants, showing curious customers the various trades and methods of early Wisconsin living.
Situated in the heart of downtown Racine, RAM is dedicated to the exhibition, education, and collection of contemporary visual art. With more than 5,000 objects in its permanent collection, the 46,000-square-foot space houses one of North America’s largest collections of contemporary crafts in a multitude of mediums such as ceramics and fiber arts. The museum also constantly cycles in new retina-rallying exhibitions such as the current Not So Still Life, examining a range of quirky interpretations of classic still-life subjects such as fruit bowls or avant-garde Jello molds. Visitors can also admire the bold contour lines and expressive mark-making of painter couple Ruth Grotenrath and Schomer Lichtner. Check the exhibitions schedule for a sampling of upcoming shows to fuel future bouts of cognitive calisthenics.
In 1928 the famous stage-acting couple Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt declared that from then on they would only appear onstage together. They also refused to act during the summer so they could spend the season at Ten Chimneys—their 60-acre estate retreat in the rolling hills of Kettle Moraine. Alfred had begun the construction himself in 1914, designing the first part of the three-story main house. In 1922 he and Lynn, newly married, began making additions: they converted the house's chicken coop into a private five-room country cottage and built a Swedish-style log cabin for use as a performance studio. Here, they lived and entertained a revolving cast of actors, writers, and artists until their retirement in 1960.
Today, trained docents lead small groups on tours through the cottage, the studio, and the main house's 18 rooms. Some of these confines bear unique titles such as the Flirtation Room, whereas others are named for past guests Helen Hayes, Laurence Olivier, and Noël Coward. Guides divulge the history behind many of the eclectic artifacts found there, such as Staffordshire figurines, pre-Civil War oil lamps, and Delft china, and reveal details about more personal pieces such as handmade gifts from Helen Hayes and Noël Coward, photographs with Charlie Chaplin, and murals painted by set designer Claggett Wilson. Outside, they lead visitors past a creamery and greenhouse, and point out a copper mermaid—designed and crafted by Cecil Beaton—that sits atop the estate's pool house to scare away sailors.
Throughout the year, Ten Chimneys hosts special theater-centric events. Play readings held in partnership with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater showcase the theater's interns as they read works connected to the Lunts or guests at their estate. During Music in the Drawing Room, cabaret artists from around the country gather around Noël Coward's historic piano to perform for small crowds and confuse unprepared time travelers. The estate also invites well-known local or national theater practitioners for a guest-speaker series inspired by the theater-minded talks that took place at the Lunts’ dining table.
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