Graham Kilmer

Villa Terrace Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Museum plans a weekend of events and fundraising for anniversary in July.

By - Jun 14th, 2024 01:27 pm
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum will celebrate its 100th anniversary in July.

The Friends of Villa Terrace is planning a big bash to mark the centennial, but it’s also part of a pivot by the museum to become more visible and welcoming to the public and the wider arts community.

“Villa Terrace has always been a jewel of the city, but not necessarily well known in the community,” said Megan Holbrook, former board chair of the Friends of Villa Terrace.

The celebration will kick off on Wednesday, July 10 with a drone light show over Milwaukee’s lakefront created by local artist Ray Chi. The show is free to the public and music timed with the show will play on the radio station 91.7 WMSE.

The friends group is hosting family-friendly party for the drone show with “light projection, STEAM and glow in the dark activities, light snacks, DJ’s and more,” according to The Friends of Villa Terrace, which is planning the centennial celebration. Admission for adults will be $25, for children $5. Children 4 years old and younger can enter for free.

On July 11, the museum will be the site of a free “Artists Day” from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with plein air painters working in the garden and crafts for children, light appetizers in the evening and a cash bar. “It’s really supposed to be fun and also highlight the different ways that artists get involved,” Holbrook said.

On July 13, the friends group will host its bi-annual fundraiser, the “Centennial Jazz Gala in the Garden.” Tickets to the fundraiser begin at $250. Proceeds from the fundraiser will “help maintain Villa Terrace’s gorgeous Renaissance gardens and make them more accessible for people with mobility restrictions; restore the kitchens so new community classes and programming can be held; continue the restoration of the Hermes sculpture; and much more,” according to the friends group.

Villa Terrace was originally built as a home for Agnes and Lloyd Smith, a scion of the family that founded the A.O Smith Corporation. The house was designed by architect David Adler, and the prominent lawn by landscape architect Rose Standish Nichols. It was built in 1923 and the Smith’s moved into their home in 1924.

In 1966 Agnes gifted the home to the City of Milwaukee as a public museum and gallery space. It eventually passed into control of Milwaukee County, which owns the museum today. It is operated by Charles Allis and Villa Terrace, Inc., a nonprofit that also operates the nearby Charles Allis Art Museum, 1801 N. Prospect Ave.

County policymakers are in the midst of reconsidering the government’s ownership of both museums. As budgets have tightened over the past few decades, the county has fallen behind on maintenance for the buildings and supervisors have questioned whether the county can continue to support the institutions. The county recently released a public request for ideas on how to sustainably run the museums, ideally without county support.

The centennial celebration will be an opportunity to amplify the work of the CAVT staff, led by Executive Director Jaymee Harvey Willms, Holbrook told Urban Milwaukee. Willms has been working to increase the programming at the museum “and really make sure that all of Milwaukee knows that there are some really great things happening in Villa Terrace and Charles Allis,” Holbrooke said.

CAVT recently implemented a new limit on the number of weekends the museum set aside as a wedding venue, in favor of increased use as a museum, as Urban Milwaukee has previously reported.

Beyond the events over the ceremony weekend in July, Villa Terrace is also planning to hold 100 events over the summer for the 100th anniversary, as Urban Milwaukee has reported. Many will be free or low-cost.

“So when we thought about the centennial, we thought about ways of expanding what was usually a fundraising weekend in July, to something that would be open and accessible and welcoming and fun for the public,” Holbrook said.

The drone show should be a hit, Holbrook said; Ray Chi “has really come up with something dazzling.”

Update: This story has been updated to clarify that the nonprofit operating the museum is not hosting the centennial celebration.

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One thought on “Villa Terrace Celebrates 100th Anniversary”

  1. meganwh says:

    The tickets for the events can be purchased on!

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