Philanthropists Keith Mardak and Mary Vandenberg Donate $5 Million to Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

Updated 9/21/2021 11:20 AM

The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC) announced it will name its primary building located at 325 W. Walnut St. the Mardak|Vandenberg Building, thanks to the generous $5 million gift from Milwaukee-based couple Keith Mardak and Mary Vandenberg.

"Through the great work of both First Stage and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), MYAC is opening a door for a diverse population of young people in Milwaukee to develop their talents and build a life-long appreciation for the performing arts," said Mardak. "We're excited to contribute to this expansion for students to enjoy for years to come."


It is this commitment to the lives of young people that resulted in this contribution to support MYAC's capital campaign. MYAC will undergo a major campus expansion to meet the growing educational and artistic needs of students, including a newly renovated Goodman Mainstage Hall and Annex.

"We are extremely grateful for this generous donation from Keith and Mary," said Del Wilson, executive director, MYAC. "The completed construction of the Mardak|Vandenberg Building will feature two new rehearsal halls, six studios and six small group instruction rooms and will preserve the legacy created by the couple in connecting students, families and neighborhoods for generations."

In addition to the renovations, three significant works of art highlighting artists from around the world will be donated to the organization by the couple. "An Old Song Without Words,"

a painting by 19th century artist William Verplanck Birney completed in 1893; "The Big Round Sound," a sculpture by Wisconsin-based Richard Taylor; and a sculpture by Zimbabwean artist Samuel Tichafa Masakwa will be prominently displayed at the Mardak|Vandenberg Building.

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Mardak and Vandenberg are not only proponents of the performing arts but have also played an important role in providing for underserved youth in Milwaukee, as both were charitable donors to the original Milwaukee Youth Arts Center and have been principal program partners. Additionally, they have ensured, through their support, that Boys & Girls Clubs participants have access to First Stage and MYSO programming.

For Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Mardak and Vandenberg have established the Mardak Center for Administration and Training; the Daniels/Mardak Boys & Girls Club, located on 35th Street and Hampton Avenue in Milwaukee; the Vandenberg Center for the Arts at the Fitzsimmons Boys & Girls Club, located on North Avenue in Milwaukee; and MarVan Scholars. Additionally, they provide donations for college scholarships to Boys & Girls Clubs members through All-In Milwaukee.

Other philanthropic endeavors include: VanderCook College of Music scholarships; VanderCook College of Music capital campaign, Meet the Challenge; United States Handball Association (USHA) scholarships; Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra capital campaign, Grand Future Campaign; Milwaukee Ballet; and Running Rebels.

Mardak is the former chairman and CEO of Hal Leonard Corporation, the world's largest music print publisher, and Vandenberg is the former vice president of business affairs of Hal Leonard Corporation.

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