The Villa Today

The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum celebrated its fiftieth anniversary of service to the public in 2017. The Villa’s history as a museum begins in 1966, when the Milwaukee Art Museum accepted Ms. Agnes Smith Curtis' gift of her villa and garden. For seven years, the Art Museum utilized the Smith family home as their decorative arts wing. After that, the Friends of Villa Terrace formed to continue operating the museum on behalf of Milwaukee County, staging hundreds of art openings featuring unique decorative arts exhibitions. Cyril Colnik’s historic wrought-iron work and archives were donated in 1990 by his daughter Gretchen and along with the Kohler Foundation’s donation of other Colnik drawings, Villa Terrace has the largest collection of Colnik items in the world.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Friends of Villa Terrace embarked on a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million to renovate the Villa’s Renaissance Garden. The garden continues to be maintained through the efforts of the Friends of Villa Terrace.

Today Villa Terrace and its Renaissance Garden are zoned as Milwaukee County parkland. Together, they serve the citizens of Milwaukee through the creation and promotion of local, regional and international visual and decorative arts, and a wide range of intergenerational community arts programming that includes theater, music, arts and crafts, creative writing, poetry, and gardening. 

Villa Terrace was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, designated a historic property by the City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission in 1982, and recognized by Milwaukee County as a landmark in 2004.