Chair Design Exhibition on View this Summer

Wausau, Wisconsin: Exploring chairs as art – functional and sculptural objects – and offering insights into sublime design, “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design,” remains on view through August 28 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

Each chair tells a story about national history and the evolution of American design, eloquently told through this ubiquitous, essential piece of furniture. Evolving, aesthetic trends are reflected in lush textures, sleek lines, and striking colors. Social and cultural developments, emerging technology, and ergonomics also are part of the story.

In this survey of exceptional chair design, visitors will experience nineteenth-century to contemporary chairs chosen for their beauty and historical context, as well as social, economic, political, and cultural influences. Including readily recognizable pieces alongside rarely seen antiques, the stylistic journey ranges from designs by John Henry Belter, George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, and the Stickley Brothers to Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, and Frank Gehry. The exhibition also features contemporary and historic designs by manufacturers Knoll, Herman Miller, and Steelcase.

The “House of Representatives Chamber Arm Chair,” 1857, designed by Thomas Ustick Walter, an architect of the Capitol, is an example of those created for use in the U.S. Congress and showcased in portraits of political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.

The “ ‘McKinley’ Arm Chair,” ca. 1894-1896, designed by David Wolcott Kendall, deemed by his peers as “The Dean of American Furniture Design,” was presented to William McKinley during his term in the White House.

“The Art of Seating,” on view through August 28, is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, Florida, in collaboration with the Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington D.C.

Interactive Options and Programs

Opportunities for creative engagement abound at the Woodson Art Museum through programs for all ages and exhibition extras.

  • Kick Back & Say “Cheese” – Pose for snapshots and selfies in the oversized Adirondack chair near the Museum’s south parking lot; share your smiles on social media using #bigwoodsonchair
  • Design Lounge: Recline & Consider Design – Visitors are invited to jot down and share reflections about their favorite chairs and responses to designs in “The Art of Seating.” Add your comments to retro chair cushions.
  • Activity Guide – Consider good design in this free guide for all ages. What makes everyday objects beautiful and satisfying to use?
  • Audio Tour – Learn more about chairs on view by listening on a Museum iPod, your smartphone, or tablet; all free.
  • Art Park – Be a designer, problem solver, and artist. Explore an array of hands-on activities in the Museum’s interactive family gallery

During Night Out @ the Woodson on the first Thursday of each month when the Museum stays open until 7:30 p.m., learn something new during Art 101, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and drop in for Hands-on Art, 5:30-7 p.m. Night Out @ the Woodson is part of Wausau’s River District’s “First Thursdays” season, May through September. Art 101 also is offered as a noon-hour program on the third Wednesday of each month.

During Hands-on Art, June 2, 5:30-7 p.m., all are invited to pick up a drawing board and sketch, taking inspiration from artwork from the Museum’s collection in “Making Marks” galleries.

During Art 101: Marking Milestone, Thursday, June 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and Wednesday, June 15, 12:15-1 p.m., adults get an in-depth look at the Museum’s drawing collection, celebrating twenty-five years, from curator Jane Weinke as she shares dozens of examples from nearly 1,000 works.

Let Design Move You

Night Out @ the Woodson, on June 2, July 7, and August 4 features Yoga & Art, 5:30-6:30 pm, led by a 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness instructor. Please register at Bring a mat or blanket. A 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness instructor also leads family yoga sessions during Extra Terrific Toddler Tuesday, June 21, 10:30 a.m.-Noon. This summer marks the sixth year of the Museum’s participation in Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens, First Lady Michelle Obama’s national initiative launched with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Oversized, Site-Specific Sapling Sculpture

Created during Artist Residency in June

A twenty-foot tall sculpture of a sandhill crane pair will be created by “The Myth Makers: Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein,” two Boston artists who create site-specific sculpture from ephemeral materials, June 21-25. For “The Dance,” Dodson and Moerlein were inspired by the way the seasonal migration of sandhill cranes to their Wisconsin nesting grounds marks the passage of time.

As “The Dance” extends skyward, visitors may observe, ask the artists questions, and consider dropping off – and decorating – white, tan, or gray plastic bags, which the artists will weave into the sculpture. The Myth Makers invite visitors to contribute “their own personal meaning and myths, reminding us all of seasonal changes and life’s rhythms” by marking bags to convey special summer family traditions. The Myth Makers’ residency is made possible by a generous contribution from the Genan Foundation. Experience The Myth Makers’ collaborative process and work with them during public programs.

  • Extra Terrific Toddler Tuesday: Crane Craft & Striking Poses, June 21, 10:30 a.m.-Noon – Little ones, 18 months-4 years, siblings, and accompanying adults sample art making and movement-themed stations inspired by “The Dance” under construction. Also take in a family yoga session led by a 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness instructor.
  • Monumental Sculpture: From Idea to Execution, Tuesday, June 21, 5:30-6:30 p.m. – As “The Dance” takes shape, join The Myth Makers for insights into their site-specific sculpture and a discussion of their creative process. All ages welcome.
  • Making the Myth: Teen/Adult Creative Writing Workshop, Wednesday, June 22, 5:30-6:30 p.m. – Dodson and Moerlein lead a series of short creative writing exercises, utilizing a range of texts and stories as inspiration. Participants will discuss the origins and meanings of diverse cultural myths and create their own stories with guidance from The Myth Makers. Call 715-845-7010 to register.
  • Sculpt with Saplings, Thursday, June 23, 4:30-6 p.m. – All ages drop in to create their own miniature crane sculptures from bendable branches, guided and inspired by Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein.
  • Art Beyond Sight, Saturday, June 25, 10:30 a.m.-Noon – Individuals with low-vision or blindness are invited to experience the Museum’s new site-specific avian sculpture through conversation, hands-on investigation, and art making with The Myth Makers and Woodson educators. Call 715-845-7010 to register.

Register for Design Labs for Children and Tweens

During summer Design Lab sessions, children and tweens brainstorm, play with design, and put the fun in functional, exploring how good design results in purposeful art – objects that function well.

  • Ages 5-8: Grab a Seat and Go! Tuesday & Wednesday, July 12-13, 9 a.m.-Noon – Inspired by chairs in “The Art of Seating,” participants re-imagine existing chairs by utilizing unexpected materials in creative ways. Youngsters will explore essential design considerations through hands-on projects and artful experimentation. Fee: $35 members, $45 non-members. Call 715-845-7010 to register.
  • Ages 9-12: Pull Up a Chair, Thursday & Friday, July 14-15, 9 a.m.-NoonFrom concept to construction, Design Lab participants will retool existing chairs, develop original furniture designs, and learn how artists develop “solution-based designs” through interactive art making and investigation. Fee: $35 members, $45 non-members. Call 715-845-7010 to register.

Fee includes all supplies and materials. Scholarships available thanks to the Wisconsin Valley Art Association; call the Museum at 715-845-7010.

Programs for All Ages

Themes focused on Museum collection artwork and “The Art of Seating” extend throughout programs and presentations designed to pique the curiosity of all ages. Check for details about the following programs.

During Art Part Open Studio, all ages drop in to experiment with provided art materials, 1-3 p.m., on the first Saturday each month, June 4, July 2, and August 6.

The Museum’s monthly SPARK! programs for individuals with memory loss and accompanying friends or family members includes engaging art experiences in the galleries and a creative, art-making activity, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, on the second Thursday of each month, June 9, July 14, and August 11. Call 715-845-7010 to register.

Little ones, 18 months-4 years, and accompanying adults drop in to sample art-making activities and explore Art Park during Toddler Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, on the third Tuesday of each month, June 21, July 19, and August 16.

To register for the following programs for little ones and accompanying adults, call the Museum at 715-845-7010. Art Babies, birth-1 year, 10:30-11:15 a.m., on Fridays, June 24, July 29, and August 26; Art Time for Tots, 1-4 years, 9:30-10:30 a.m., Wednesday and Thursdays, June 22 and 23, July 27 and 28, and August 24 and 25.

During Art 101/Hands-on-Art, Chairs: A Look Behind the Lathe, Thursday, July 7, 5:30-7 p.m., Wisconsin Valley Woodturners discuss and demonstrate how woodworkers create chair arms, legs, and backs in dozens of unique shapes and designs. Following the presentation, participants may take a turn at the lathe with guidance from area woodturners.

During Art 101, Chairs: A Look Behind the Lathe, Wednesday, July 20, 12:15-1 p.m., Wisconsin Valley Woodturners, inspired by distinct designs in “The Art of Seating,” explore evolving iterations of the chair, highlighting techniques used to create wooden chair legs, arms, and backs.

During Treasuring Memories, Wednesday, July 27, 1-3 p.m., children, teens, and families coping with the death of a loved one create memorial art for a garden, walkway, or special space of remembrance. Participants may bring small mementos to incorporate into the project. This free event offers the opportunity to share memories and reflections of loved ones. Questions? Call Amy Kitsembel at the Aspirus Grief Center, 715-847-2703. To register, call 715-845-7010.

During Art 101: Chairs with Presidential Airs, Thursday, August 4, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and on Wednesday, August 17, 12:15-1 p.m., adults settle in, during the run-up to this year’s presidential election, as project coordinator and historian Matt Foss explores facts about both the chairs and presidents featured in official portraits. All ages drop in for Hands-on Art, Thursday, August 4, 5:30-7 p.m., to create monoprints using gelatin plates and miniature chair stencils.

Avian-Themed Exhibitions from the Museum’s Collection

Capturing Nature: Owen J. Gromme,” on view through August 14, includes compositions that integrate the bird and its surroundings.

Out of the Vault,” on view through November 20, focuses on six bird species – mallards, bluebirds, ravens, chickadees, downy woodpeckers and wood ducks – through a sampling of mediums that yield distinctly different artistic interpretations.

Audubon to Wyeth: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculptures,” on view through December 31, comprises a dazzling, historic array of bird imagery in artworks spanning the early-nineteenth through late-twentieth centuries.

Making Marks,” on view through February 19, 2017, features a selection of avian-themed drawings that range from quick sketches to intricately detailed illustrations, highlighting artists’ varied approaches and the importance of field observation.

For more information, visit, e-mail the Museum at, call 715-845-7010, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Click on the following URL link to access high-resolution image; if using the image, please include this caption information.

Boston artists Andy Moerlein and Donna Dodson, known as The Myth Makers

Woodson Art Museum

Tues–Fri 9am–4pm
First Thurs each month 9am–7:30pm
Thurs during Birds in Art 9am–7:30pm
Sat–Sun Noon–5pm
Closed Mon & holidays, including New Year’s Day, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas

Admission: Always Free Admission
Phone: 715.845.7010
Location: Franklin and 12th Streets, Wausau, Wisconsin 54403-5007
(700 N. Twelfth Street)


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