The city of West Bend is a fairly small and a seemingly down to earth community, baring a population of around 30,000.
With the sense of a diamond set in copper, I found a museum that rarely accompanies such a scene, as I imagine such middle class towns with no-nonsense mentalities. Yet, the fashionable building, being laid near a narrow portion of the Milwaukee river, gleams on the landscape like a trendy monument.
You may argue that West Bend is a city that revolves around financial services, such as insurance and banking. That is true, but many in the town commute or have had factory jobs inside the small city. It’s main street appears as any in this modern world, without the refurbished buildings of some of the tourism driven towns, just genuine antiquity. It was said, by noteworthy sources such as ‘Ripley’s believe it or not’, that this city’s economy was so strong that it avoided the Great Depression.
Alright, enough about the town, and my lengthy lead in. The Museum I visited in this interesting city was the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Here, if you consider their feature exhibit, the word art can be used loosely or quite literally. Take, for instance, the pieces of cycling glory produced by Trek, a Wisconsin bicycle manufacturer. Or, conversely, the giant Panoramic paintings of Milwaukee born Carl Von Marr. Both mesh together giving Wisconsinite’s a sense of pride, seeing such relevant conceptions fitting for the world stage.
We enter the museum and are greeted by a friendly and informative receptionist. Many museums, as I have found, have year-long memberships, and she fills us in on theirs. This offer is membership for two, for a grand total of $24 dollars. We become members before we set eyes on the exhibits.
We thank the woman for her hospitality and follow a hall. Sunlight filters through glass panels, falling upon bicycles and a backdrop of white. Many interesting and significant bikes are lined against the walls in this long and narrow walk. There is a winner of the Tour de France, a world speed record breaker and a bike once owned by the late celebrity Robin Williams. Not to mention, off road racers are also presented in this procession, with dirt from the races plastered on the pedals, spokes and frame.
We climb a staircase, as glass panels allow sunlight to stream upon our bodies. When we reach the top of the stairs, we are set to explore the galleries.
This does not disappoint. First off, we are met by frontier era art. From portraits to furniture, I get a feel for the rudimentary,gritty and humble beginnings of our state. Sprinkled in all of the galleries, trek bicycles stand as center pieces inside the painting graced walls.
After the Frontier pieces, I come across my favorite part of the Museum. I discover an artist I know I’ve heard of before. When and where I have come across his name is now a mystery. However, I find that I love Carl Von Marr’s work. Not only does it display photographic luminosity and detail, but the size of my favorite ‘The Flagellants’ invokes a sensation of standing on the street depicted in the piece.
I proceed to another gallery where I fix my eyes on more recent pieces. I enjoy much of the work. It’s crazy to think about, but every piece I’ve laid eyes upon has ties to Wisconsin. Take that Florence!
There’s also a glass vault that stores many of the museum’s pieces. I find this colorful and bizarre painting, inside said vault, appealing to my more daring side
The final gallery of the museum features an artist known as Daniel Gerhartz. This exhibition, known as the ‘Continuum of Beauty’, contains many stunning oil on canvas portraits. Literally, I sense more realism in these paintings than the highest pixel resolution photo.
After the final exhibition, we follow the staircase down to the first floor and peruse the gift shop. The visit was a winner. For twelve dollars my heart is satisfied, delighting in the rare skill that is featured in this very modern venue.
However, we’re not heading home just yet.
It’s gorgeous outdoors and, in light of last week’s record breaking blizzard, we feel obligated to enjoy some sunshine. So we venture towards the bridge set across the road, following the passage over the Milwaukee river. We hit the main street of the town and walk for a bit. Like I said, this is pretty much a nuts and bolts line up of buildings.
We find a restaurant, with a supper club type vibe, known as the Riverside Brewery. Sunday brunch, as the day is Sunday, is available from 10-1. We arrive just in the nick of time. However, despite the fact that we can order breakfast, I can’t pass up a chance to pick out a local micro brew. I enjoy their amber ale, and I do mean enjoy.
Take a road trip and enjoy some Wisconsin art in a charming city.
Closed on Monday