Trout Museum of Art relocation planning will continue after city council vote

The city council voted 8-7 for ongoing discussions
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2022 at 10:17 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - A controversial plan to relocate the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton to Ellen Kort Peace Park is moving forward. This, after much debate during a special meeting of the city council which wrapped up late Wednesday night.

A crowd was on hand for a special meeting at city hall, where officials from the Trout Museum will give a presentation to the city council unveiling their intentions.

It was a very close vote, but after seeing the presentation and learning new details about the proposal, the council voted 8-7 to allow for more, ongoing discussions.

The proposal calls for a one-story building, about 30,000 square feet, up against the Fox River on the park’s western side. In the latest design, the building and parking lot would take up 19 percent of the park and include green space on the building’s roof.

Some people who live nearby have concerns, including the loss of green space and a lack of parking.

“I don’t care how neat the building looks. I care about my neighborhood park, and I live in that neighborhood and I care about what little of it will be left,” Lisa DeGroot of Appleton said.

Kerry Williamsen expressed, “Why would you spend that kind of money and put it in a spot that doesn’t have the space for that? It’s a small spot that doesn’t allow for that.”

While many who live near the park oppose the plan, others say it would benefit the community as a whole.

“If this plan doesn’t go through, the city will see one of the greatest art museums that host exhibitions of contemporary community artwork leave the city -- and the art community with leave this area with it,” Dave Schumacher of Appleton said.

The Trout Museum has said its current location next to Houdini Plaza doesn’t allow it to expand. The existing facility is 100 years old.

“We have come to a crossroads because we must do several million dollars in updates or we need to decide to move to another location,” Trout Museum of Art executive director Christina Turner said.

In August, the council voted to agree to talks on the project. City officials also developed a process map so the public knows exactly what to expect, and the steps the council could take, to ensure transparency in the months to come.

“We want to be part of a team that we are with the city and with the Park and Rec Department. We would be happy to be able to answer any questions and do a presentation so you could understand that background more thoroughly,” Turner said.

Among those at the meeting was Kerry Williamsen, whose mother is Ellen Kort, for whom the park is named. She opposes the plan even after seeing the latest presentation.

“I’m disappointed, very disappointed. I still believe in my mother’s legacy being honored, and the council members before, I’m just unhappy and I hope we can stop this process at the next step.”

An effort to delay Wednesday night’s vote for two weeks was rejected.

A final vote on the project is still months away, and that’s pending environmental impact and trafffic studies.

“We realize that this is a park there’s a lot of interest in keeping it as a park. There’s also been some feedback in regards to wanting it to move forward as a museum. So because of that, there’s no rush,” Dean Gazza, Appleton’s director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities Management, told us before the meeting.

The Trout Museum is giving a presentation to city leaders. It says the current location by Houdini Plaza doesn't offer room to grow.