Jeramey Jannene

Wisconsin Center Seeks Artists For Expansion

$1.5 million will be spent on art to enliven convention center expansion.

By - Aug 31st, 2022 04:41 pm
Security Guard by Marc Sijan in 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Security Guard by Marc Sijan in 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Wisconsin Center District is on the hunt for artists to enliven its $456 million convention center expansion.

A call for artists seeks proposals with budgets from $10,000 to $450,000. That includes pieces that might hang on the walls or a large, three-dimensional suspended sculpture. The total budget for art is currently $1.5 million.

The call for proposals is open to local as well as national and international artists. Submissions are due Sep. 16 with artists to be selected by December and pieces installed in early 2024, just before the expansion opens.

There will be plenty of space in which to install the art. The project will add 112,000 square feet of exhibition space to the convention center, creating a 300,000-square-foot main hall. Multiple outdoor decks, an indoor waterfall and revamped common spaces will wrap the convention hall. A new 2,000-person ballroom and 24 meeting rooms will also be added. The building will be reoriented to the north and given a new entrance.

The new art is intended to create “a bold vision” that will inspire pride, enhance the visitor experience, curate a sense of place by highlighting the culture and character of Milwaukee and reference the past, present and future of the region.

A panel of community members, arts professionals, artists and district representatives are to select the artists.

The current facility has a substantial amount of public art dating back to its 1998 construction.

Perhaps the most recognizable piece is “Security Guard” by Marc Sijan. The Bay View-based artist created a lifelike depiction of his father dressed as a security guard that stands just inside the main entrance, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave. Ever since its installation it’s been fooling and delighting visitors. A similar piece in the Milwaukee Bucks‘ former practice facility has earned national press.

More information on the request for qualifications process can be found at

The building is scheduled to host its first events in late spring 2024 and host a large portion of the Republican National Convention that summer.

A general contracting partnership of CD Smith and Gilbane Building Co. is constructing the new building along W. Kilbourn Ave. Design work on the expansion is being led by a partnership of tvsdesign and Eppstein Uhen Architects.

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