The newest proposal for the former Wausau Club building would turn it into a contemporary art museum, the only one like it north of Madison, its proposer says.
Nationally renowned artist David Hummer, owner of The Bauhaus art studio in downtown Wausau, outlined the idea this week to the city’s economic development committee, which gave Hummer the go-head to present a formal proposal in two weeks. His was the only plan the city received in its latest request for proposals to redevelop the large historic, vacant structure located between the Grand Theater and City Hall in downtown Wausau. The city now owns the building. If the project is approved, Hummer will transform the first floor of the former social club into a contemporary art museum, bringing in a staff of art professionals to run it.
Hummer says he would relocate his art studio into the basement level and pay rent to the museum, significantly expanding his space for students. The second floor of the building—known for its elegant ballroom—would become an event space managed by a third party.
Hummer says he’s been working on plans for a museum for a couple of years. When a previous proposal for the building by businessman Mark Goffin fell through, Hummer jumped at the chance to put the museum there. Hummer already had planned to move Bauhaus into the Wausau Club building under Goffin’s proposal for a mercantile building.
Hummer is asking the city to donate the building as part of the proposal. Initial construction of the museum is projected to cost about $1.5 million. Hummer told city official he plans to establish an endowment of $20 million that would ultimately fund the museum’s future expenses. Though he’s known primarily as an artist here, Hummer has experience developing large properties elsewhere, including in Chicago. He previously owned two art galleries in Milwaukee before relocating to Wausau several years ago.
Hummer also has lined up several benefactors who are supportive of the project and would provide the funds to make it a reality.
He doesn’t plan to run the art museum himself. His connections within the art world will help the museum attract featured exhibits and guest artists. “I’ve been a professional art painter for 35 years and have painted with artists in New York whom I can call tomorrow and have exhibitions such as Eric Fischl and Vincent Desiderio,” Hummer says. “I think [contemporary art] should be for everyone, and this brings it into an accessible location.”
The biggest goal, Hummer is quick to emphasize, is that the museum will be accessible. “This is not the museum of your grandparents where you felt like you had to know something, or be able to comment,” Hummer says. “We want you to experience it and not be afraid to.”