Release Date: April 1, 2010

Land gift from The Boldt Co. means new entry for Appleton Art Center

The Post-Crescent

The Appleton Art Center has accepted a gift of land it will use to build a new entrance from Houdini Plaza in downtown Appleton.

The land, donated by The Boldt Co., is immediately west of the center and extends 30 feet from the length of the center's west facade. Construction on the new entrance begins this month and will feature a triangular glass vestibule with a lobby, exhibit space and a donor Wall of Appreciation. It also will welcome visitors into the center's galleries, which are undergoing major renovations to upgrade climate control and lighting systems.

"This is really an extension of that work from a access standpoint," said art center executive director Tim Riley. "It will be more beneficial to our visitors. "And obviously from an aesthetic standpoint, we think this will be a real wonderful opportunity to open the art center into the community more than it already is."

Three locust trees growing on the property will need to be removed and the art center has invited several artists to transform those trees into permanent works of art dubbed "The Houdini Trees." Artists working on the project include Sherry Lawson Gates and Charles Mitchell, both of Appleton, and Rob Neilson, associate professor of art at Lawrence University.

"It's an exciting and creative way to make sure those trees live in permanently," said Riley, adding the finished sculptures will be displayed in the galleries at the center's June reopening. "And I'm hopeful one of them will actually go in the entrance which would be very near where the trees once stood."

In addition to incorporating the trees into his own sculptural work, Neilson also will employ Lawrence students enrolled in his advanced sculpture class. Many of the works will be on display at the art center when its galleries reopen in June and as part of Lawrence University's Earth Week Celebrations this month.

"The art center's decision to preserve these trees as works or art demonstrates a real commitment to conservation and re-purposing, both artistically and environmentally", said Tom Boldt, CEO of The Boldt Company.

The Appleton Art Center also intends to donate three new trees to the city of Appleton for planting in City Park, the home of its annual Art in the Park.

"As Appleton Art Center celebrates its 50th anniversary, this is a very special gift," AAC board president Kent Willetts said. "The Boldt Company has long been a champion of downtown Appleton in general and Houdini Plaza in particular. We are exceedingly thankful to them for this remarkable gift."

"We are now starting to celebrate in fine fashion," Riley said.