The coup de grâce of the Griswold family vacation to “Wally World” in National Lampoon’s Vacation is that when they finally get to their destination – after a trip filled with a damaged car, lost luggage, and marital strife – the theme park is temporarily closed.
When the Woodson Art Museum decided to temporarily close proactively in October as Covid-19 surged regionally, staff took shifts outside to greet visitors who traveled from near and far to see Birds in Art. Collectively, we greeted three dozen weekend visitors from as far away as Milwaukee, who hoped to catch a glimpse of the Woodson’s flagship exhibition. Standing near the main entrance walkway, I felt like the security guard played by John Candy at “Wally World” telling the Griswolds the park was closed.
Knowing that people plan trips to Wausau specifically to see Birds in Art, telling someone who hadn’t heard the news of the closure was daunting. Fortunately, all the people I spoke with were understanding and offered words of support and encouragement. None resorted to the drastic measures Chevy Chase went to – at the expense of John Candy – to get some “good old-fashioned family fun.”
Aware of the popularity and importance of Birds in Art, the Museum made the decision to reschedule the winter exhibitions, The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality and the concurrent Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic, and extend Birds in Art into late February 2021. This potentially allows additional time for visitors to experience the 45th edition of Birds in Art, provided the pandemic allows a timely reopening.
The decision to extend or reschedule exhibitions is not one the Museum takes lightly. However, we recall the early days of the pandemic when the Museum first temporarily closed last spring, and the superb exhibition L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters could not be seen by the audience it deserved. We do not want Birds in Art or Global Headwear or Stormy Kromer to suffer a similar fate. Woodson staff put tremendous effort into selecting, preparing, interpreting, and marketing exhibitions. Each one should be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Extending Birds in Art into 2021 and rescheduling Global Headwear and Stormy Kromer until December 2022 are prudent decisions, made in the best interest of the Museum and its stakeholders. I’m confident even the Griswolds would understand.