The villa’s courtyards, terraces, and Renaissance garden flowing down to the lake make it unique to Milwaukee.
Villa Terrace’s history as a museum begins in 1966, when the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) accepted Ms. Agnes Smith Curtis’ gift of her villa and garden. For seven years, the Art Museum utilized the Smith family home as their decorative arts wing. After that, the MAM garden club continued operating the museum, staging hundreds of art openings featuring unique decorative arts exhibitions. Cyril Colnik’s historic wrought-iron work and archives were donated in 1990 by his daughter Gretchen and along with the Kohler Foundation’s donation of other Colnik drawings, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum has the largest collection of Colnik items in the world.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Friends of Villa Terrace embarked on a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million to renovate the Villa’s Renaissance Garden. The garden continues to be maintained through the efforts of the Friends of Villa Terrace.
Today, the museum is jointly operated with the Charles Allis Art Museum by its own non-profit through a public private partnership with Milwaukee County. Together, they serve the citizens of Milwaukee through the creation and promotion of local, regional and international visual and decorative arts, and a wide range of intergenerational community arts programming that includes theater, music, arts and crafts, creative writing, poetry, and gardening.
Villa Terrace was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, designated a historic property by the City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission in 1982, and recognized by Milwaukee County as a landmark in 2004.
SUPPORT VILLA TERRACE
Becoming a member of Villa Terrace is a great way to support the museum during these challenging times. A donation of a dollar or two goes a long way in helping sustain our exhibitions, programs, and historic spaces.
Thank you for your continued support!
The Trajectory Series is an art exhibition that examines how creative behaviors advance cultures and technologies.
The Trajectory Series guest curated by Christopher Willey at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is an exhibit of innovative and provocative art inspired by and created with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, bioengineering, and virtual and augmented reality. Through the lens of art, the series traces the evolution and creative interplay of art and science and how this relationship continues to inspire creatives – artists, scientists, engineers, inventors, and craftspeople – to develop new artistic and technological applications that transform society, often in completely unexpected ways. The Trajectory Series invites us to not only celebrate the history and evolution of creativity, but also consider the impact of emerging art forms, scientific advances, and technological applications on our society in ways we are only now beginning to imagine.
The Trajectory Series seeks to redefine the overburdened word “technology” as a term that describes behaviors. The exhibition looks at the role creative behaviors play in the evolution of technology and reframes systems like language, culture, and the scientific method. Each exhibition space will offer context as well as prepare the audience for where technological advancements may be taking us. Ultimately, we hope our audience leaves with a greater understanding of their own creative agency, and how their collective behaviors might influence the future. By bringing minds together to focus on creativity and technology, we can gain a larger perspective.
The Zuber Gallery Through Time
The Zuber Gallery remains our most coveted exhibition space and also our most challenging. Its strong decorative identity requires artworks to function in tandem with the thematic opportunities presented by its motifs, or, conversely, to embrace contrast.
Weeks of closure earlier this year gave us the opportunity to digitize a number of exhibition catalogs from the Villa Terrace museum’s past. One such catalog is from the 2019 exhibit “A Mouth-Shaped Room” by Philadelphia-based artist David R. Harper. Harper transformed the Villa Terrace into an illusory world of historic fiction, activating the entire house with sculpture, transformed objects, and installations.
VIRTUAL EVENT RENTAL TOUR
If you are planning an unforgettable event, look no further! Catch a tour of Villa Terrace by our rentals manager Megan on our Instagram page’s highlights.