Wausau, Wisconsin: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, received the Association of Midwest Museum’s Distinguished Career Award.
One of the AMM’s annual awards recognizing leadership, career achievements, and best practices, the Distinguished Career Award honors an individual with more than 10 years in the museum industry who has made significant contributions to the field.
“Her dedication to organizational growth and staff development, as well as museum advocacy, are just a few of Kathy’s strengths as a leader,” the AMM award announcement states. “From the Woodson’s annual “Birds in Art” exhibition to cultural programming for people with memory loss as part of the SPARK! Alliance, Kathy’s team has transformed a small museum in a small city into a community anchor.”
The AMM hosted and invited all to join a virtual community celebration on Friday, November 13, 1 p.m. CST, that featured the online AMM awards program honoring Kathy Kelsey Foley. To register for the free program, open to all, participants signed up here: https://bit.ly/30ILSBn
After twenty-eight years during her two tenures at the Woodson Art Museum, Foley continues to passionately advocate for the Museum and for making visual arts experiences accessible to all. As a full-service art museum in northern Wisconsin, the Woodson Art Museum is a community resource, Wisconsin cultural attraction, and maintains its more than four-decade commitment to always-free admission. The Museum’s flagship “Birds in Art” exhibition has brought international recognition to the Museum and Wisconsin, and Foley continues to lead the efforts in assembling a world-class collection setting the standard for avian art.
Demonstrating dedication to museum staff at her own and other organizations, the museum field, and the importance of museums in communities, Foley has served on museum association and community boards and as an accreditation site-visit committee member for the American Alliance of Museums and a federal grant reviewer.
“Kathy has a unique ability to blend warmth and kindness with knowledge and tenacity,” wrote nominator Brenda Raney, deputy director, advancement and community engagement, at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. “This combination has led to a singular impact on our field.”
Continually striving to exceed expectations, Foley and the Woodson Art Museum have received recognition for accomplishments. In 2014, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters named Kathy a Wisconsin Academy Fellow for her substantial contributions to the cultural life and welfare of the state and its people. In 2016, she also received a Wisconsin Visual Art Achievement Award. In 2017, the Institute of Museum and Library Services named the Woodson Art Museum a National Medal winner, the nation’s highest museum honor for service to the community, recognizing significant and exceptional community contributions through innovative programs. The Woodson Art Museum also was the 2016 winner of the Wisconsin Governor’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage tourism award.
With Foley’s leadership, an array of visual-arts experiences have been accessible via ever-changing artwork in the Woodson Art Museum galleries, sculpture garden, and Art Park – the Museum’s interactive family gallery. Museum staff also developed offerings such as visiting artist presentations and workshops, hands-on art making, and programs for all ages and life stages – from babies, children, and families, students and their teachers, teens, and adults. Exhibition themes have been woven throughout programs spanning the age and life-stage spectrum – from Art Babies, launched in 2009 for little ones and accompanying adults, to SPARK!, created in 2010 for individuals with early- to mid-stage memory loss and their loved ones or care partners. Art Beyond Sight, implemented in 2006, has provided multisensory ways for individuals with blindness or low vision to experience the visual arts.
Although the Museum proactively closed October 9 until further notice as a precaution in response to regional surges in Covid-19 numbers, the Museum provides art experiences via online offerings. The Museum was closed for twelve weeks in spring 2020 during the Covid-19 shutdown, yet aspects of the spring exhibition of nineteenth-century French posters, “L’Affichomania,” remain accessible online through the Museum’s videos and an Activity Guide. The Museum reopened on June 16 with safety measures in place and featured artwork from India and the Museum’s collection during the remainder of the summer. In the fall, although health precautions necessitated suspending “Birds in Art” 2020 opening festivities, the exhibition did open on September 12. In Art Park, the Museum’s interactive family gallery, a visual array of studio materials and artist tools replaced touchable interactives and complement an exhibition of photographs of “Birds in Art” artists’ studio work spaces. Online offerings include a “Birds in Art” overview video, Activity Guide, webinar presentations, and videos featuring insights from “Birds in Art” artists.
Woodson Art Museum
Location: 700 N. 12th Street (Franklin & 12th Streets), Wausau, Wisconsin 54403-5007
About the Association of Midwest Museums: The Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit professional service organization with a focus programming and resources for museums located in an eight-state region including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Founded in 1927, AMM is among the oldest museum service associations in the U.S. and currently serves a membership of over 950 professionals and organizations, from small county historical societies and historic sites to large art institutions and science centers. To learn more, visit midwestmuseums.org.