Milwaukee Youth Arts Center Overview
A Brief History
Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) and First Stage Children’s Theater have been acknowledged widely for their artistic quality and their service to the community. As they grew organizationally, it became apparent that more space was needed for rehearsals and administrative functions in order to achieve their missions and goals. For many years, both organizations resided at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, a facility in which both organizations continue to perform and which remains the home of many of the area’s largest performing arts groups.
In 2002, MYSO and First Stage Children’s Theater formed a new nonprofit corporation to own and operate the yet-to-be-built Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. A joint selection committee studied more than 40 sites before settling on the current property, preferred not only for its location in one of Milwaukee’s most quickly developing areas, but also for the ample footprint, the high roof lines and the open interior, free of columns. After a highly successful $12 million capital campaign which attracted considerable support from donors and volunteers, the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center opened in January 2005. This cooperative initiative of First Stage Children's Theater and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra is a nationally unprecedented collaboration between organizations of their kinds.
The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center is located just north of downtown Milwaukee, adjacent to the Schlitz Park business park, in a facility that began life as the Schlitz garage. This 88,000 sq. ft. building later served several companies as a distribution center and warehouse. The main level of the Center provides more than 55,000 sq. ft. of program space. Five well-designed, spacious rehearsal halls feature high ceilings and excellent acoustical properties.
The largest rehearsal space is the 3,800 sq. ft. Youth Arts Hall. Though it is not designed to be a performance hall, it offers excellent amenities for smaller performances—full theatrical lighting and sound, excellent acoustics, a control booth, dressing rooms, modular stage and a mezzanine which can be used by rehearsal observers or audience members. Both MYSO and First Stage Children’s Theater, however, continue to present their major performances at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and, in the case of MYSO, at numerous other concert venues used around the community.
Additional spaces include nine classrooms, two small practice room/studio spaces, MYSO and First Stage Children’s Theater administrative offices, a costume shop and storage space, music library and instrument storage. All program spaces feature state-of-the-art soundproofing and acoustic paneling.
At the heart of the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center is its Commons, a 3,200 sq. ft. social/relaxation space in the center of the building, where parents and students congregate, mingle, and study.