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Museum Of Contemporary Art Opens In Historic Wausau Building

Executive Director David Hummer Hopes To Draw Visitors From Across The Midwest

David Hummer
David Hummer, executive director of the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art, stands outside the historic building that once housed the city’s Wausau Club. Glen Moberg/WPR

For the last 13 years a historic building in downtown Wausau has sat vacant. Once the primary gathering spot for the community’s movers and shakers, the Wausau Club now has a new tenant: an art museum.

Executive Director David Hummer is hoping his Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art revitalizes the landmark building while also shaking up the city’s economy.

“This museum is going to create a tremendous attraction for people not just in the state of Wisconsin, but for the entire region of Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, (and) Minneapolis,” Hummer said “We’re a great geographic location for something like this to happen.”

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The opening exhibit features the work of 48 artists, selected from 750 entries, with workshops conducted by Alyssa Monks, an internationally renowned painter. The “Best of Show” artist will receive a $10,000 award.

“Every museum has its own niche. So we’re bringing in work that ordinarily in the Midwest does not get shown,” Hummer said. “We’re building a bridge between the east and west coasts. It’s intriguing to those artists to exhibit here because they’re very well known on the coasts and in Europe, but the Midwest has never heard of them.”

On Friday, workers were sawing and sanding boards and continuing the renovation work on the old building, even as Hummer prepared for the evening’s opening reception.

“It very well may have met the wrecking ball. So, I’m happy that I was able to kill two birds with one stone,” Hummer said.

Much of the work is being done by volunteers who also helped renovate the Pavilion, a century-old concert venue in nearby Rothschild, which they saved from demolition.

“It’s a lot of work, but we want to give birth to this and let it walk on its own. There’s just been a huge outpouring of community support that I am extremely humbled by,” Hummer said.

The Wausau Club building was donated to the city in 2014 after extensive repair work by owners Tom and Connie Schuette. The city council voted to give the building to Hummer, a Wausau-based artist, for the museum project in February.

“It’s not every day that a museum of contemporary art opens in the north woods of Wisconsin,” Hummer said.