The World According to Federico Uribe is a colorful, creative exhibition into which more than 12,000 Woodson Art Museum visitors, thus far, have happily escaped this summer. I often tell visitors “I can feel my blood pressure drop every time I walk into the galleries,” which I think is due, in part, to the cheery, bird-song sounds playing throughout the exhibition. With each return to the galleries, I also find myself wishing to create something and I notice everyday objects with a newly intrigued and inquisitive eye. I know I am not alone when it comes to that sudden urge to make something; an outpouring of ingenuity is evident in Art Park, which is filled with clever creations made by visitors and then proudly displayed for all to admire.
Two summer programs have made me especially aware of the infectious and inspiring quality of Uribe’s artwork – Summer Art Sessions and a visit with first-year students from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Central Wisconsin campus.
Summer Art Session participants, ages 5-8, worked with Museum staff July 10 and 11 to design and construct animal sculptures using familiar objects, including plastic containers, cups, buttons, bottle caps, and more, transforming them into birds, fish, frogs, turtles, cats – and the list goes on. One of the most memorable and impressive takeaways was the can-do, positive attitudes of young participants who waited patiently for assistance, shared materials, and dove into art making with confidence and gusto.
Older Art Session participants, ages 9-12, tackled ambitious sculptures with help from the Museum staff team of “studio assistants,” July 12 and 13. After observing animal poses and personalities in the galleries, participants selected materials and sketched designs for their projects, many of which included suggested environments for their subjects, too.
Supportive, creative energy buzzed throughout the studio space with Art Session participants hard at work on their projects and cheering one another on. Visit the Museum to see an installation of Summer Art Session Artworks, on view August 2-19.
On Monday afternoon, a group of twenty-one first-year students from the Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin campus visited the Art Museum as a part of their curriculum. Before their visit, students read articles, including a recent one from the Seattle Times, about the benefits of physicians and medical students exercising their critical-thinking and communication skills through art observation and art making.
The students explored the galleries, discussed artwork, and put their creative collaboration skills to the test as they worked in groups to create sculpture from commonplace materials – the same art materials offered to the Summer Art Session participants. The medical students’ results were just as impressive. Working quickly and enthusiastically in small groups, students created elaborate animal sculptures, which included a sea turtle protesting the use of plastic straws and a caduceus (a medical symbol that includes a staff with two snakes and wings).
Museum staff involvement focused on observation, communication, and collaboration; students embraced the new environment and assigned tasks with great enthusiasm. We enjoyed watching the teams of med-students/artists working together to troubleshoot and overcome problems to realize their designs in less than ninety minutes. These students will return to the Woodson Art Museum in March; we’ll build on their first experience with more focused art observation and communication exercises. Until then, we hope these busy students, many of them new to Wausau, will visit often and make time in their lives for creative play.
We hope you, too, will stroll the galleries and gardens and try your hand at art making, finding beauty in everyday surroundings – just what the doctor ordered.