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Milwaukee Opens Daring New Museum

May 3, 2001

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MILWAUKEE (AP) _ This city of beer and bratwurst is hoping to show off its artsy side with the opening Friday of a stark white addition to its art museum, which will be topped with a wedge-shaped, movable sculpture that has been likened to a bird in flight or a whale.

``It’s the capping crown that we see bringing us into the new millennium and also establishing a new Milwaukee image,″ said Vanessa Welter, a spokeswoman for the city’s visitors bureau.

The $100 million addition at the Milwaukee Art Museum, nearly four years in the making, is the first project in the United States by architect Santiago Calatrava, who is known for his playful kinetic designs.

For example, a planetarium he designed in Valencia, Spain, resembles a giant eye, with a sliding metal shade that opens and closes like an eyelid.

The museum project _ with its tapered-from-the-top-down design, its ribbed ceiling inside and its winglike structure overlooking Lake Michigan _ is just the latest addition to the Milwaukee skyline.

Last month, the Milwaukee Brewers’ $399 million retractable-roof stadium opened. The $175 million Midwest Express Center opened in 1998 and has drawn several big-name conventions.

The museum project’s movable structure, the Burke Brise Soleil, will open sometime between the fall and spring, said Pam Kassner, museum spokewoman. ``It’s unprecedented in American architecture. Its wingspan is as large as a 747,″ Kassner said.

``I’m excited about it. It may become Milwaukee’s St. Louis Arch,″ said Milwaukee resident Tom McAdams. ``Heck, I’d come to see it.″

While Calatrava’s design may draw people to the city and give Milwaukee a more cultured reputation, the new addition to the Lake Michigan skyline just confirms what the people of Milwaukee already know, said John Gurda, a historian and author of ``The Making of Milwaukee.″

``I think it will probably change our national image more than our self-image,″ Gurda said. ``For Milwaukeeans, ourselves, it’s kind of an affirmation, that this is a place that makes things that work.″

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On the Net:

Milwaukee Art Museum: http://www.mam.org

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