Familiar and Fresh

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on November 10th, 2021

Envisioning change is difficult without the context of the past. Now, more than ever, I find myself with a foot in both worlds – the familiar and the fresh.

New approaches and concepts are encouraged at the Woodson Art Museum, which make for a stimulating and dynamic work environment. The Woodson team is creative and clever, sharing ideas openly and frequently with one another as we problem solve and debate the merits of proposed plans. These exchanges are both rewarding and challenging as we re-imagine programs.

The Woodson Art Museum’s education department, consisting of myself, fellow educator Rachel Hausmann-Schall, and education assistant Holly Van Eperen, has been keeping busy this fall. As Rachel and Holly get acclimated, they’re embracing all aspects of the Museum’s educational offerings, especially during our pandemic-necessitated state of flux. They’ve demonstrated sainthood levels of patience during my frequent references to past programs, partnerships, and experiences from my ten years as a Woodson educator, making me feel old and deeply uncool all at the same time.

I was excited to share a new version of the Birds in Art opening weekend with Rachel and Holly, so they could begin associating artist faces with names and stories. The experience of forging a path through an ever-changing landscape alongside old friends and new left me feeling joyful and exhausted – a familiar state of mind following any Birds in Art opening.

Recent artist residencies with Tom Hill and Paul Rhymer are perfect examples of how something familiar – I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with both sculptors on residencies before – was becoming new again. While writing this post, I talked to Rachel about it how best to clarify the conflicting feelings I’m trying to describe, and she had the perfect analogy.

You’re having people over for dinner and you’re making chili, a classic crowd pleaser; in the pot you’ll add familiar ingredients, incorporate what you have in the pantry, and accommodate the needs and wants of those you’ll share the meal with.

Welcoming Wausau School District elementary art specialists back to the Museum at the end of October was another instance of new and old routines working in tandem. I always enjoy working with area art educators. I learn a lot, get to catch up with colleagues, and meet teachers who recently joined the District. Rachel and I met with the art specialists to review plans for third-grade field trips this winter and brainstorm ideas for a restructured Art Cluster program during the upcoming Christian Robinson and Woodblock Print exhibitions.

Familiar ingredients? Artists in residence, students visiting the Museum, and brainstorming projects to complement artwork on view.

Fresh additions to the recipe? New Museum staff members, covid-related safety protocols, and flexible program models to ensure we continue to meet our unofficial institutional motto – under promise, over deliver.

Stay tuned as the Museum education team creates unexpected offerings that stay true to our essential formula: art + creativity + community = Woodson Art Museum experiences.

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