An historic landmark in downtown Wausau will soon become an exhibition space for modern art.
The city acquired the vacant Wausau Club building three years ago, and is now giving it to local artist David Hummer, who plans to open the Museum of Contemporary Art in August.
"It's incredibly unique," Hummer said. "A museum of contemporary art in a largely rural demographic region doesn't happen every day."
The city council voted Tuesday to give Hummer the museum free of charge because of the potential tax revenue the museum could provide.
Hummer said the museum will be the only exhibition space of its kind in the northern half of the state.
"The question comes to me, am I crazy for doing this? But I really believe that people want to see these things," he said. "To be able to bring these international artists to Wausau is, I think, going to prove to be quite spectacular and beneficial to everyone."
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Contemporary artists on the east and west coasts are interested in a new audience for their work, he said.
Although the Wausau Club building is still structurally sound, it needs to be renovated before the exhibition space can open. Hummer said he will keep costs down and open sooner by first renovating only the main floor.
The building will also house Hummer’s art studio and provide space for community outreach activities.
"We're going to hopefully start incorporating programs dealing with children with special needs, providing programs to post traumatic stress disorder patients, adult art therapy, art for dementia patients. That's my hope," Hummer said.
The Wausau Club opened in 1901 as a male-only gathering spot for the city’s movers and shakers. It has been vacant since 2004.