Mulva Cultural Center builds upon city’s arts legacy


The City of De Pere, Wis., began in the 17th century as a fishing village with a monastery, grew to be an incorporated city by the 1860s and has a National Register of Historic Places historic district with dozens of homes in a variety of styles that were built from the early 19th to early 20th centuries.

That architectural legacy is only part of what makes the small city attractive to some. Now, thanks to the generosity of James and Miriam Mulva, who have in recent years donated tens of millions of dollars to various groups, a new artistic focal point will draw new visitors, and enliven the historic town.

The wife and husband philanthropists recently announced designs for the Mulva Cultural Center, which will be in De Pere. The building will have an exterior made of transparent glass and will be a setting of arts activities and a focal point of the city’s arts community.

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Designed by the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architecture firm (SOM), the center will be situated along the Fox River.

“The hiring of SOM as the architect for the Mulva Cultural Center shows just how significant this project is for the City of De Pere and the people of Northeast Wisconsin. It underscores our family’s longstanding commitment to enhancing the community my wife Miriam and I have known and loved since our childhood,” says Jim Mulva. “We are honored and thrilled to partner with SOM on what is a grand plan for bringing this addition to the heart of historic downtown De Pere as part of the city’s new Cultural District Master Plan.”

The 60,000-square-foot center will host traveling art exhibitions, provide cultural programming and educational programming, and host other activities. The plans for the center follow a long-term strategy for the future of the city, which is in the Greater Green Bay Area.

“As a city, we have always been incredibly proud of our rich history and traditions while also endlessly striving to build a vibrant and forward-thinking future,” says De Pere Mayor Mike Walsh. “The Mulva Cultural Center embodies that spirit. We look forward to this world-class addition, and we are grateful for this significant opportunity to enrich and grow our community.”

The Mulva Cultural Center will have an open-air atrium spanning the building’s three stories., and a large auditorium. The center also will have flexible permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, event space, classrooms, a café, and an outdoor terrace.