Hats & Headwear Exhibitions & Programs

Wausau, Wisconsin: Presentations and a gallery walk highlighted two exhibitions at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin: “The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality” and “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic.” 

Whether worn for warmth, festivities, or showing allegiance to a team or tribe, headwear often reveals more about a person than it conceals. Prominently perched atop heads, hats proclaim where we live, who we are, what we believe, and how we fit into our communities. Protecting us from the elements and enemies, head coverings also are used to project power, celebrate ceremonies, symbolize faith, and express identity, making personal aesthetic statements. Locally, those who don Stormy Kromer caps seek warmth from winter weather and to align with what’s become an iconic brand.

From headdresses and helmets to turbans and crowns, “The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality” explored the vital role of ceremonial headwear through diverse cultural customs, beliefs, and rituals. Featuring headwear from forty-three countries spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America, with most from the mid to late twentieth century, many types are still worn today for revelry, ritual, and rhythms of everyday life. Headwear’s usage and purposes share themes: cultural identity; power, prestige, and status; ceremonies and celebrations; spiritual beliefs; and protection. White wedding veils of the West symbolize purity, for example, and Vietnamese brides’ open-crowned red turbans symbolize good fortune. “The Global Language of Headwear” exhibition was jointly organized and toured by Stacey W. Miller and International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

Curator Stacey W. Miller surrounded by hats she's collected throughout the world.

Photo of Stacey W. Miller by Keith Bullis

Programs on December 1 and 3 featured curator Stacey W. Miller and additional guest panelists.
☛ Thursday, December 1, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Sartorial Sampler                                     Visitors joined well-traveled hat enthusiast and curator Stacey W. Miller for an introduction to the hats and headdresses featured in “The Global Language of Headwear.”

☛ Saturday, December 3, 1-2 p.m.
Panel Presentation
Stacey W. Miller and cultural representatives Adeola Agoke, UW-Madison, Director, African Languages Program; Alton “Sonny” Smart, UW-Stevens Point, Professor, Sociology/Social Work; and Nasiah Herr, Hmong American Center, Director of Client Services, engaged in a lively discussion about diverse traditional dress and headwear.

☛ Saturday, December 3, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Gallery Walk
Guests traveled the world through objects on view and stories from “The Global Language of Headwear” with curator Stacey W. Miller.

The “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic” exhibition featured a tip-top tale and put a local spin on global headwear. From invention and evolution over a century, the stylish and durably designed Stormy Kromer hat is interwoven into Wisconsin culture. The lore is part of the lure. A pull-down ear band stitched to a baseball cap kept a train worker’s head warm and dry amid winter winds. Ida Kromer’s innovative alteration solved the hat-flying-off problem for her husband, “Stormy” – once a semi-pro baseball player and railroad engineer – while he worked on his locomotive. And so, the Stormy Kromer was born. The caps originally were designed and fabricated in 1903 in northeastern Wisconsin and then in Milwaukee from 1919 until Jacquart Fabric Products purchased Stormy Kromer in 2001. Kromer hats continue to be made by the Jacquart company in the Great Lakes Region – in Ironwood, Michigan, near the Wisconsin border in Michigan’s upper peninsula. It’s now an iconic, internationally known brand.

Stormy Kromer describes its brand voice as: “Strong, knowledgeable, with an air of wit and wisdom, that is comfortable in its element (actually all of them).”
☛ Up here, “numbskull” isn’t an insult. It’s a medical condition.
☛ A frosty head only looks good on beer.
☛ Friends don’t let friends get frostbite.
☛ Furry family members don Critter Kromers.

“Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic,” organized by Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum curator of exhibitions Shannon Pueschner, with assistance from Gina Jacquart Thorsen, CEO, Jacquart Fabric Products, explored and celebrated Stormy Kromer’s artful evolution through early photographs, processes, and ever-changing fabric designs and forms emblematic of the Upper Midwest. A Dudley Foundation grant supports the Stormy Kromer exhibition. A Joint Effort Marketing grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism supported expanded “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic” marketing efforts.

Other program highlights included
☛ During a “Light’s Edge” Gallery Walk on Thursday, January 5, 5:30-6:30 p.m., curator of collections Amalia Wojciechowski shared insights into “Light’s Edge: The American Nocturne,” featuring artwork from the Museum’s collection depicting avian life in twilight.
☛ SPARK! programs for adults with early-to-mid-stage memory loss and their care partners focused on “The Global Language of Headwear” on Thursday, January 12, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, and on the Stormy Kromer exhibition on Thursday, February 9, 10:30 a.m.-Noon. Register online at www.lywam.org/learn-do/program-registration or call 715.845.7010. To schedule a specialized SPARK! experience, contact scheduling@lywam.org or 715.845.7010.
☛ Making @ the Museum drop-in programs for all were held Wednesday, January 18, 1-3 p.m., and Wednesday, February 22, 1-3 p.m.
☛ Bob Jacquart, the chairman of Jacquart Fabric Products which owns Stormy Kromer, led a gallery walk through “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic,” on Saturday, January 21, 1-2 p.m.
☛ With a nod to the Stormy Kromer exhibition, Team USA Snow Sculptors – Mike Martino, Tom Queoff, and Mike Sponholtz – worked their winter wonders Saturday, January 28, during their 33rd year creating snow sculptures at the Woodson Art Museum.
☛ During Art Beyond Sight on Saturday, January 28, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, individuals with low vision and blindness explored the Stormy Kromer exhibition via a multisensory gallery experience, led by Museum educators, and time with guest artist and Team USA Snow Sculptor Mike Martino. Register online at www.lywam.org/learn-do/program-registration or call 715.845.7010. To schedule a specialized Art Beyond Sight experience, contact scheduling@lywam.org or 715.845.7010.
☛ Visitors received insights from a group coordinated by the Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals into garments and headwear from various regions and clans during a panel presentation Thursday, February 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m. and “Regalia Runway” fashion shows on Saturday, February 4, 11 a.m.-Noon and 2-3 p.m.; Q&A followed each morning and afternoon runway show.

For additional details about these and other programs complementing the “Hats & Headwear: Global to Local” exhibitions, check the Woodson Art Museum’s online events calendar, the events calendar PDF, the online Hats & Headwear press release, the “Global Language of Headwear” exhibition webpage, and the “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic” exhibition webpage. Both exhibitions were on view through Sunday, February 26, 2023. 

For more information, visit www.lywam.org, e-mail the Museum at info@lywam.org, call 715-845-7010, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For media outlets: to request high-resolution images of artwork to accompany news articles, send an email inquiry to info@lywam.org.

Woodson Art Museum Hours
Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9am – 4pm
First Thursday of each month 9am – 7:30pm
Every Thursday during Birds in Art 9am – 7:30pm
Saturday – Sunday Noon – 5pm
Closed Monday & holidays, including New Year’s Day, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas
Admission: Always Free Admission
Phone: 715.845.7010
Email: info@lywam.org
Location: 700 N. 12th Street (Franklin & 12th Streets), Wausau, Wisconsin 54403-5007
Online: www.lywam.org

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