Escher’s Multifaceted Appeal
By: Amy Beck, marketing and communications manager
During the finals days of M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion, the Woodson Art Museum continues to receive gratifying messages from those eagerly planning trips to visit and their impressions after experiencing Escher’s mind-bending artwork.
Projected attendance during the three-month Escher exhibition – on view March 4 through May 28 – was expected to be about 10,000. With just days remaining, the actual total-attendance tally exceeds 15,000.
What an outstanding response and justifiably so. This exhibition from Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece, is a retrospective of the Dutch artist’s fifty-year career. The 120 woodcuts, lithographs, mezzotints, and drawings comprise Escher’s most iconic works, signature architectural fantasies, and tessellations, as well as early figure drawings, lesser-known book illustrations, and detailed Italian landscapes.
Some visitors delve deeply, drawn into the mesmerizing, enigmatic depictions of infinity and impossible worlds. Two women drove from Madison, stayed in a hotel for two nights, and spent every minute they could in the Escher galleries throughout that weekend – a total of ten hours. A former math professor traveled repeatedly from Stevens Point, enthralled – as mathematicians and scientists have been since the mid-twentieth century – by Escher’s artwork that bridges the realms of science and art in ever-intriguing ways.
Some expressed their enthusiasm with drawings and words on paper ants that traverse a large Möbius strip.
Here’s a stunning sketch left in a gallery comment book.
As we’d hoped, families traveled for spring break trips and many visitors have returned repeatedly to explore different aspects each time – listening to the audio tour app, sketching on the Activity Guide, and lingering to watch videos in the galleries. Art Park, the Museum’s interactive family gallery, features an oversized kaleidoscope, a cabinet of curiosities, a tessellation table, and gazing balls and articulated figures to sketch.Visitors often make the case most effectively. TripAdvisor lists the Woodson Art Museum, with 151 reviews, as the #1 of 27 things to do in Wausau. Here’s a sampling of recent TripAdvisor reviews.
- A TripAdvisor review titled “M.C. Escher exhibition is BRILLIANT!” was posted in March: “Spring break and we couldn’t afford to go to the beaches or other warm spots, but we found this museum to be a fantastic day trip from Chippewa Falls. There is a unique opportunity to see one of the most extensive exhibitions of M.C. Escher’s artwork within an 1.5 hour drive. Absolutely fantastic exhibition and wonderful gem of a museum.”
- A visitor from East Lansing, Michigan, in April wrote: “It was amazing. We were there two hours and then we walked the outdoor sculpture gardens. We saw the M. C. Escher exhibition. Fascinating. Enjoyed the audio tour. They also had an artist exhibition from Madison, WI who was delightful.”
- A review titled “The Best Art Museum!” was posted on May 18: “ The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is probably one of the best art museums in the Midwest, and could be up there for the U.S.A. Whenever we have visited, the staff have been very accommodating and are able to answer any questions one may have. Artwork is beautifully displayed, and there is much room for guests to roam around in while looking at the art. There is also a wonderful children’s area. They also have many family oriented events throughout the year. We usually spend two hours there, but the length of visit depends on the featured display. The outside grounds are fantastic and stunningly beautiful! This is a favorite place for our family to visit and it’s free!”
- This review was posted on May 19: “This is a fabulous little gem in the middle of a residential neighborhood. We visited the museum because of the M. C. Escher exhibition, and were so thrilled to see so many other wonderful artists, too. Rubens Peale, J. J. Audubon, Tiffany to name only a few. There was a display of glass art pieces that was unbelievably beautiful. The sculpture garden was gorgeous even though the day was chilly and it’s too early in the season to get the true effect of the sculpture with the flowers. There is an interactive art studio on the lower level and we had a lot of fun with tessellations and perspective.”
Three TripAdvisor reviews posted on May 23 included:
- “Great place for kids. Educational and interactive. Kids love it all.”
- “Absolutely loved the Escher exhibit as well as the artist featured in the lower level. Always love spending time there.”
- “We try to visit whenever there is a new exhibit. I feel a point is made to make a lot of diversity in their exhibitions, to interest many people with different aspects of art. It is free and the volunteers at the front desk are always welcoming and willing to help.”
Comments on Facebook ads have circulated widely, thanks to the expanded promotion made possible by a $20,000 Wisconsin Department of Tourism Joint Effort Marketing grant. Facebook and Google ads were designed to target Escher aficionados of all ages and families throughout Wisconsin, Chicago, and the Twin Cities, encouraging travel to the Woodson Art Museum for spring break trips and weekend getaways.
Here’s a sampling of the response from 62,193 people reached, 2,700 likes, 1,077 shares, and 222 comments on an Escher Facebook ad.
- Archan Jane Sramek of Beaver Dam posted on May 23: “This is one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen, and I have seen many, all over the world.”
- Donna Tirpak of Golden Valley, Minnesota, posted on May 2: “Perfect timing for our visit as we make a road trip from Minneapolis to visit Crab Tree Farm in Lake Bluff, IL and then to visit you in Wausau and finish up with Grand-kids in Duluth, MN for dinner and a school program. Who says ‘you can’t do it all’? No one I know! HA!”
- Ann Waisbrot of Saint Germain posted on April 29: “Great exhibition, installed beautifully with all the extra touches the Woodson is known for.”
- David Sorgel posted on April 16: “The Woodson is a first rate Art Museum! And I’m not saying this just because I’m an artist! They have some of the most terrific exhibitions anywhere in the country! Especially the nationally acclaimed annual ‘Birds in Art’ exhibition! Lucky it’s only an hour and a half away from our cabin in Three Lakes!”
- Evelyn Azbell posted on April 15: “I have viewed the exhibition three times so far. The first solo on opening day, the second with a group of family and friends, the third with one friend. It was wonderful each time. The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum of Wausau is a Wisconsin gem.”
- John Magon posted on April 8: “Went to see the exhibition today. It was amazing!! Worth the road trip from Madison, WI.”
- Theresa Landre of Waupaca posted on April 8: “Went to see the exhibition today! So happy we did. What a mind, what a talent – unbelievable!!! Can’t say enough about! GO SEE IT! DON’T MISS IT!!”
- Gail Baumann posted on April 3: “A must see exhibition! First time to the museum and I was amazed.”
- Leila Lucero posted on April 3: “We came with our grandchildren and found the exhibition very interesting and learned about the artist himself and how he came to design his drawings. Great experience for 12 and 15 year old.”
- Erin Kaczmarowski of LaCrosse posted on March 27: “Amazing exhibition, definitely worth the drive!”
- Mary Grossnickle of Knowlton posted on March 15: “Don’t miss this; it’s great! If you can go to one of their Art 101 presentations, you’ll learn so much. Ned and I went today; it was so informative!”
- Penny Adele posted and shared with Peggy Condon of Waterford and Marta Sitek of Westmont, Illinois, on March13: “Road Trip to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum of Wausau? Some things of interest for all of us.”
- Ron Schweigert posted on March 11: “Going to be there tomorrow! It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive away, but well worth it!”
- Ned Gannon posted on February 21: “Thanks, I’m on their page. My family and I really want to visit. We love to make that trip anyway, and stop at Red Eye for lunch!”
- Shay DeGrandis of Chicago posted on February 12: “I’ll have to come back up for this!”
Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett traveled to Wausau on May 23 to see the Escher exhibition and personally congratulate director Kathy Kelsey Foley and staff about the news released May 15: the Woodson Art Museum is receiving the nation’s highest museum honor – recognition by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as a 2017 National Medal winner.
We greatly appreciate the efforts of “Wisconsin’s Ambassador of Fun,” and we were delighted to share the joy of this recognition that all throughout north-central Wisconsin and the state can celebrate.
To wrap up, here are a few comments from the Museum’s digital guestbook:
- “Math teachers love Escher… Waukesha West HS!!”
- “M.C. Escher exhibit brought us to your museum. Enjoyed the museum very much.”
- “The quality of the exhibits is astounding. I am blown away by the presentations. You combine artists of quality that I have never heard of with world-class masters of their medium. Thank you!!! When I stood in front of the Audubon original, chills ran down my spine. THANK YOU!!!”
Visitors say it best; what about the Woodson Art Museum inspires you?
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