Art on the Town, a creative haven in the heart of Beaver Dam, needed a facelift as it grew to offer more services and expand its artistic and business capacity.
Opened in 2019, Art on the Town offers classes, paint-your-own pottery, drop-in artmaking experiences, exhibition space, and the use of its studio and materials for those looking to make art. But its look and physical layout made accomplishing that mission increasingly challenging.
“We wanted both the inside and the outside of our building to reflect the creativity that our amazing customers show every time they make something here at Art on the Town,” said owner Kris Schumacher-Rasmussen.
Growth spurs need for change
As the Front Street business grew to add more services, Schumacher-Rasmussen discovered the need for enhanced signage, upgraded displays, and improved interior circulation. She knew that a makeover would help guide customers to be more creative, learn more about art, and celebrate their own accomplishments. That meant creating well-designed spaces, including the studio, event spaces, and pottery room.
So, she turned to WEDC, entering the Main Street Makeover contest. The contest is open to businesses in communities that are part of the Wisconsin Main Street Program (the state’s signature downtown revitalization initiative) and provides selected businesses with funding to make change.
Ultimately, Art on the Town was selected as one of three Wisconsin businesses to receive a $5,000 grant to remake itself.
“We wanted both the inside and outside of our building to reflect the creativity that our amazing customers show every time they make something here at Art on the Town.”
Kris Schumacher-Rasmussen, Owner, Art on the Town
Building a better business, improved downtown
With help from WEDC and Retailworks Inc., a Milwaukee-based retail branding and design company, months of planning were soon underway. The community chipped in, too, with staff, volunteers, and local contractors working together to breathe life into those plans.
The interior and exterior changes were unveiled in the summer of 2023. Outside, new signage, a new awning, and a fresh coat of paint conveyed the business’s image and mission. Inside, the changes created a new ambience in the business’ three distinct spaces, helping guests feed their creative spirits. The changes have contributed to the vitality of Beaver Dam’s downtown district as well.
WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes noted that small businesses are at the heart of a successful downtown.
“Art on the Town’s new space will bring increased creative opportunities to Beaver Dam residents and bring new life to the downtown community,” Hughes said.
Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce Director Tracy Propst also recognized the value of the makeover to the city’s downtown.
“I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this makeover than Art on the Town,” said Propst. “Kris and their team have poured their time, energy, and funds into providing this wonderful artistic space for our community.”
AT A GLANCE
Business: Art on the Town, Beaver Dam
Redesign the studio to better serve customers and reflect its growth
The Sheboygan Falls Main Street Program began in December 1988, when it was named one of the first five pilot Main Street programs in the state of Wisconsin. At this time, only three buildings in downtown Sheboygan Falls had been renovated, and many stood vacant. However, the actual push for downtown revitalization had begun nearly 15 years earlier, when a few passionate individuals formed a Sheboygan Falls historic preservation group out of the Sheboygan County Landmarks Association. Two separate historic districts were created as a result of this effort. The community effort to launch the program resulted in significant private sector investment, as local property improvements totaled more than $3.6 million in the program’s fifth year after steady year-over-year improvements. Early successes included the Brickner Woolen Mill Apartments, which was a successful $3.3 million adaptive reuse project to create affordable housing units along the river downtown. Projects like this, along with many individual business examples, paved the way for the Brickner Square project and 1878 Broadway redevelopment, which both resulted from local investors pooling funds to purchase and restore long-vacant properties. Bemis Manufacturing was an early investor, leading by example through renovations of a downtown showroom facility, but also providing $15,000 in seed funding toward a revolving loan pool for other downtown property owners. Early activities also set the stage for community-oriented and family-friendly events such as the Ducktona 500, which has grown to attract 8,000 annual attendees. Today, Sheboygan Falls is one of Wisconsin’s successful Chamber-Main Street organizations, a model made possible when the larger business community recognizes that the health of the downtown center is a reflection of overall economic opportunity. Sheboygan Falls has won more than 40 statewide Main Street awards in virtually every category offered. The program is especially recognized for its well-preserved historic architecture and successful community-wide partnerships designed to engage the City, business community, civic organizations and residents to preserve and promote a strong and vibrant local community while retaining its quintessential small-town charm.