Featured Partner: Anderson Arts Center

3/2/2020 - Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

Arts & Culture, Featured Partner, History
Anderson Arts Center
Anderson Arts Center
Anderson Arts Center
Anderson Arts Center
Anderson Arts Center

Kenosha is a community rich with history and culture. In fact, we have four historic districts here. The Third Avenue Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. There is one property – located amongst numerous private residences in this district – that’s open to the public. Known generally as Kemper Center, the unique complex overlooks Lake Michigan. It’s a county park that features a conference center, a beautiful historic chapel, the 1860s Durkee Mansion, and the Griffin Observatory. On the south end of this historic property sits the Anderson Arts Center, which opened in 1992 and is dedicated to the support and promotion of all arts, including fine art, music, dance, literature, and drama. On February 23, 2020, the Anderson Arts Center re-opened after a year-long, $4.3 million preservation and modernization project.

The renovation, funded jointly by the city and county of Kenosha, began in January 2019 because of external repairs needed on the 90-year old building. The revamped arts center now features a new geothermal heating and cooling system, new ADA compliant bathrooms, repaired roof and exterior walls, new landscaping, and updated gallery spaces and hanging systems. The bathrooms are accessible from both inside and outside of the building, which will be beneficial for attendees to the outdoor events that are held there.

“We are very excited to be able to reopen the new and improved Anderson Arts Center. You can feel how special the building is as soon as you enter,” said Edward Kubicki, Executive Director of the Kemper Center in a media release. “The updates will allow us to show even more artwork from more diverse artists from all over the region.”

The 9,000 square foot 30-room Anderson Arts Center was built between 1929 and 1931 as a home for the Anderson family. In 1977, Janet Lance Anderson deeded her house to Kenosha County to be part of the Kemper Center park grounds. She continued to live in the house until her death in 1989, at the age of 96. The home officially became a part of Kemper Center in 1990. The Anderson Arts Center opened as a gallery in April 1992.

Rena Lee became the administrator of the Anderson Arts Center in late January 2020. She oversees the general running of the Arts Center, including its programs, events, exhibits, marketing, staffing, and anything else that comes along. Volunteers assist the staff, which consists of herself and Candace Hoffman, the curator. Rena has a master’s degree in history and museum studies from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. She has worked for small local history museums, as well as a variety of non-profit organizations, including a library and theater. In each of her jobs, she has enjoyed incorporating a museum-like learning piece. And while she wouldn’t call herself an artist, she does dabble in art such as electroform jewelry and watercolors.

When Anderson Arts Center re-opened, 176 pieces of art by The League of Milwaukee Artists and other area artists were on display. The exhibits continue through May 2, 2020, when they will be replaced by new exhibits. A gift shop will feature the works of local and regional artists. Rena says they hope to involve the artists from Lakefront Studios with the gift shop. The art studios are located in the main Kemper Center complex, north of Anderson Arts Center. The Lakefront Studios are made possible in part by a generous donation from the Kemper Hall Alumnae Association. (For over 100 years, Kemper was an Episcopal girl’s school.)

Among Anderson Arts Center’s annual events are free outdoor Twilight Jazz concerts during the summer, a car show in August, Oktoberfest in September, and the Gallery of Trees as part of Christmas at Kemper. The grounds are available for weddings and other private events. Anderson Arts Center also offers programs at the main Kemper Center buildings, including ballroom dance classes, guitar lessons for all ages, creative classes for kids, and a summer art camp for younger children and teens. In addition, a Kenosha Folk Music Hootenanny takes place on the first Friday evening of the month at Anderson Arts Center.

Here is some local trivia for you: Just who were the Andersons? James Robson Anderson was an American Brass executive. His wife was Janet Lance Anderson, the daughter of Andrew H. Lance, a Simmons Company executive, and Emma Bell Simmons Lance. Z. G. Simmons, founder of the Simmons Mattress Company, was Mrs. Anderson's grandfather. Her brother, Gilbert S. Lance held an executive position at the Cooper Company/Jockey International. Gilbert S. Lance Middle School in Kenosha was named in his honor.

On February 22, 2020 – at the invitation-only reopening Gala – 16 out of the 84 descendants of James Robson Anderson and Janet Lance Anderson returned to Kenosha and their ancestral home to reminisce, share family stories, and to celebrate the grand re-opening of the Anderson Arts Center, built 90 years ago by their grandparents.

The Anderson Arts Center is located at 6603 Third Avenue. During exhibits, it’s open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Stop by to see a beautiful historic mansion, inspiring art, and a fantastic view of Lake Michigan.

 (262) 653-0481,

March 2020

Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Staff

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