Bernhard Schneider, Exposition Center, Milwaukee, oil, c.1887-1893, 45.5 x 62 inches
Collection Cedarburg Art Museum, The Artwork of Ozaukee Bank

Joseph Friebert, Refugees, tempera on masonite, 1945, 12.5 x19.5 inches Collection Cedarburg Art Museum, Gift of the Joseph and Betsy Ritz Friebert Family Partnership and Kohler Foundation, Inc.

Edmund G. Schildknecht, Little Village, oil, 1927, 27-1/2 x 33 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches Collection Cedarburg Art Museum, The Artwork of Ozaukee Bank

A Gift to the Future and beyond

THE INITIAL GIFT. The Cedarburg Art Museum and 49 paintings were donated to the people of Cedarburg in a trust fund left by Ozaukee Bank. Ozaukee Bank was a popular financial services company that invested in Cedarburg and opened for business in 1975. In 2007, after 32 years of successful business and many of its 400 stockholders nearing retirement age, the Board of Ozaukee Bank agreed to merge its business into BMO Harris Bank.

The Bank’s founder, Chairman M D “Mal” Hepburn, wanted to do something for Cedarburg to acknowledge the support that Ozaukee Bank had received over the years from the community. Forty-nine artworks were chosen from the Bank’s larger collection, and $1.5 Million was set aside for a future art museum as well as other cultural, artistic, and service groups in the community. The fund, Ozaukee Bank’s Gift to the Future, has the mission of “Supporting Cedarburg…Now and Forever.”

A MUSEUM AND ITS COLLECTION EMERGES. In late 2012, when the Wittenberg-Jochem Mansion was available for sale, the Ozaukee Bank’s Gift to the Future Fund was utilized for purchasing the Cedarburg main street property for an art museum. By June 2013, the doors of the Wittenberg-Jochem mansion opened as the Cedarburg Art Museum. The inaugural exhibitions in 2013 featured the 49 artworks of the Ozaukee Bank art collection that became the original artworks of the art museum’s permanent collection. Prominent Wisconsin artists working in the mid to late 20th Century such as Phil Austin, Gerhard Miller, Max Fernekes, Doris White, Lee Weiss, and Harold E. Hansen were featured from this initial collection. Other highlights of Ozaukee Bank’s initial gift to the museum include eleven paintings by Edmund G. Schildknecht illustrating his 1927 summer in Cedarburg. In addition, the earliest and largest oil painting of the initial collection, Bernhard Schneider’s “Exposition Center, Milwaukee” dating to c.1887-1893, commands a permanent display location on the museum’s second floor overlooking the grand, open staircase.

PLEIN AIR PAINTING. Another important asset of the Ozaukee Bank art collection included in the Cedarburg Art Museum permanent collection is the “Best of Show” collection of paintings from Cedarburg’s annual plein air painting event. Ozaukee Bank and the bank’s later Gift to the Future Fund have sponsored the Best of Show purchase award from 2001 to the present, thereby enabling periodically displayed, award-winning plein air paintings at the Museum and as long-term museum loans of plein air paintings to the Cedarburg Public Library.

GROWTH AFTER 2013. Now several years after Cedarburg Art Museum opened its doors, the permanent collection has grown to more than 260 artworks, thanks to gifts from area art lovers, artists, and collectors who wish to donate their art to an institution that will preserve and display their art. Artworks are admitted to the collection by a review process of the Museum’s Collection Committee in alignment with the museum’s mission.

MUSEUM MISSION, ITS EXHIBITIONS, AND LIVING ARTISTS. The Museum’s mission is to exhibit, collect, and preserve the art and artists of Cedarburg and its surrounding areas along with artwork of outstanding artists of Wisconsin. Exhibitions that follow the museum’s mission also help to promote the addition of artwork to the Cedarburg Art Museum Collection through gifts that were stimulated by exhibitions or through occasional museum purchases. For example, at this time the Museum owns eight 19th Century paintings by Bernhard Schneider. Seven of these were gifts stimulated by a 2014 exhibition of Schneider’s paintings paired with prints of the artist’s early glass-plate negatives discovered in the early 21st century in Cedarburg. Likewise, creating exhibitions of living artists in our area demonstrates how the Cedarburg Art Museum seeks to provide support and commerce for artists with a venue for displaying their artwork. The Museum may occasionally make purchases of artwork by outstanding local artists for its permanent collection from these exhibitions, as financial resources allow.

OUTSTANDING WISCONSIN ARTISTS. To bolster its collection of outstanding Wisconsin artists, the Kohler Foundation, Inc. encouraged the Cedarburg Art Museum to acquire at no cost artwork chosen by the museum’s collection committee from the estates of modernist Wisconsin artists Joseph A. Friebert, Kenn Kwint, Theodore Czebotar, and John N. Colt. Mainly though, the Museum relies on donations of artwork from friends of the museum to help increase its collection holdings. It also gratefully accepts monetary donations earmarked for purchase of certain works or for conservation expenses to help with preservation and upgrades of museum archival matting, backing, and framing materials.