Wausau, Wisconsin: Artwork at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, changes more often than the seasons, offering an ever-refreshing array of artwork and activities. In the months ahead, varied upcoming exhibitions include avian themes year-round via artwork from the Museum’s collection and Birds in Art 2018 in the fall, followed by Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master this winter, cut-paper marvels and more in Cut Up/Cut Out in spring 2019, and Botanical Art Worldwide: America’s Flora in summer 2019.
All-new artwork in the 2018 edition of Birds in Art, which opens each fall on the weekend after Labor Day, inspires in endless ways. The inaugural exhibition that helped launch the Museum in 1976 has taken flight and soared to become the Woodson Art Museum’s flagship and internationally renowned Birds in Art exhibition; yet, the Museum features much more.
- Diverse temporary exhibitions encompass artwork from around the world.
- Enriching programs and events for all ages enliven exhibition themes.
- Art of the natural world is the guiding spirit behind the paintings, works on paper, and sculpture in the Museum’s collection. Visitors experience nature’s beauty year round in the galleries and throughout the sculpture garden and grounds; the Woodson Art Museum’s historic and contemporary collection sets a world standard for avian- and nature-themed art.
- Committed to always-free admission, the Museum is a valued community resource and north central Wisconsin cultural attraction.
- The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is a 2017 National Medal winner, the nation’s highest museum honor for service to the community.
The Woodson Art Museum is one of only two art museums among the five museums and five libraries named 2017 National Medal winners on May 15, 2017, by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency supporting the nation’s approximately 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, all of which are eligible for the award. Winners are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. For 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that respond to societal needs in innovative ways, making a difference for individuals, families, and their communities. Each of the 2017 National Medal winners “play a critical role as community catalysts and provide vital resources that drive economic development, and foster community well-being,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In addition to being named a National Medal winner in 2017 and a finalist in 2016, the Woodson Art Museum also was the 2016 winner of the Wisconsin Governor’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage tourism award.
Serving an estimated 55,000 visitors each year, more than 11,000 school children are welcomed during class visits to the Museum. Volunteer greeters frequently report visitors exclaiming, “I love this place,” and “it’s always so impressive.” While many visit with friends and family for fun and inspiration, others find refreshment that brightens their days. One visitor drove an hour from Minocqua said, “I needed a day out and some peace and de-stressing, so I immediately came here.” Consider snippets from Woodson Art Museum TripAdvisor reviews:
- “Great Museum; Don’t Miss – This is a ‘Best of’ Wisconsin and definitely a ‘Don’t Miss’ for Wausau. This is a treasure in Central Wisconsin!”
- “I am grateful that this museum gives me the opportunity to spend such quality time with my children making art.”
- “The quality and diversity of the works are amazing. On Birds in Art opening day, many of the artists are there (from all over the world) and happy to talk with visitors. One artist said there is nothing like this anywhere in the world!”
- “Birds in Art is epic. Not just one medium but many. Large, small, humorous, serious – hard to imagine the creative vehicles of expression. If you are going to be in the area this is a must see. Oh, and did I say it’s free?”
The Woodson Art Museum provides visitors with barrier-free access to a vast array of visual-arts experiences including via ever-changing artwork in the galleries, the sculpture garden, and Art Park – the Museum’s interactive family gallery, visiting artists’ presentations and workshops, hands-on art making, and programs for all ages and life stages – from babies, children, and families to students during class visits and teens and adults. Exhibition themes are woven throughout those programs that span 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, provides multisensory ways for individuals with blindness or low vision to experience the visual arts.
The varied lineup of current and upcoming exhibitions includes:
June 2 – August 26, 2018
Colombia-born, Miami-based artist Federico Uribe creates magical creatures and playful installations from everyday objects. Finding beauty in books, colored pencils, wood fragments, and shoes and transforming them into animals and natural environments, Uribe creates an immersive and whimsical landscape. By using objects in surprising ways, he rethinks reality – seeing and incorporating objects as materials. Deconstructing thousands of leather shoes, for example, he creates animal sculptures and cuts apart books to make trees for a jungle-themed installation. For the Woodson Art Museum, Uribe created a large-scale, site-specific, walk-in environment.
September 8 – November 25, 2018
Birds enthrall us with their stunning plumage, amusing antics, and lilting song. Avian art inspires in endlessly novel ways, too, evoking the freedom of flight and the fragility of their earthbound existence. Artists from throughout the world push themselves to new heights, striving to be selected for the internationally renowned Birds in Art exhibition. The 43rd annual exhibition celebrates avian marvels through new interpretations – in an array of mediums, including oil, watercolor, the graphic arts, bronze, stone, and others – created within the last three years.
Saturday morning opening festivities for Birds in Art 2018 will include honoring New England pastel artist Cindy House as the 2018 Master Artist. House’s exquisite pastel landscapes appear – by design – to be oil paintings and feature sweeping vistas of avian habitats. House began as a bird-book illustrator working in watercolor, a career she credits Birds in Art with helping to launch. “I eventually found my life’s passion in pastels,” she said, “and it was at Birds in Art where they first found an audience.” Fifteen Cindy House artworks comprises her 2018 Birds in Art Master Artist grouping. For additional information about Cindy House see the 2018 Master Artist press release.
Opening-day morning programs on Saturday, September 8, part of Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend, provide varied opportunities to interact with more than sixty Birds in Art artists visiting from throughout the world. Meet the artists, 9 am – Noon. During the Master Artist Talk, 9:30 – 10:30 am, Cindy House, the Museum’s 37th Master Artist, will provide insights into her inspiration and process during “Nature in Pastel.” During Artists in Action, 10:45 am – Noon, Birds in Art artists demystify processes, demonstrating their work in various mediums beneath tents in the sculpture garden. Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend is an art extravaganza offering admission-free fun for all ages at four Wausau locations the weekend after Labor Day. Art in the Park at Marathon Park; Festival of Arts and the Center for the Visual Arts, both in downtown Wausau; and Birds in Art opening festivities at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum comprise 2018’s 29th annual Wausau’s Artrageous Weekend. Free shuttle-bus service connects all four locations.
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies Birds in Art and will be available for purchase in advance via this link in summer 2018 or at the Museum in September 2018. Three posters also available for purchase.
December 1, 2018 – February 24, 2019
The world-renowned father of the Op Art movement, Victor Vasarely created three-dimensional experiences via two-dimensional artworks featuring bold colors and geometric shapes. Vasarely, whose motto was “art for all,” advocated for democratizing art by producing multiples and screen-prints and by integrating art into architecture and public spaces. Vasarely’s innovative use of optical illusions became popular in the 1960s and 70s, when Op Art permeated everyday life through design, advertisements, and architecture. His artwork exploring visual perception and spatial relationships is a source of inspiration for those interested in art, computer programming, architecture, and beyond. From the collection of Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, and organized by PAN Art Connections, Inc., this One Source Traveling Exhibition comprises more than 150 Vasarely serigraphs, lithographs, gouache paintings, and drawings.
March 2 – June 2, 2019
A contemporary take on the ancient, yet ever-evolving, art of cutting paper comprises a range of techniques and materials – from vintage maps and magazines to a leaf, car tire, and saw blade. To transform paper, rubber, metal, and more into thought-provoking artworks, artists explore varied piercing and cutting techniques that provide endless possibilities for change. Cutting into and through surfaces, artists alter items from opaque to transparent, flat to sculptural, rigid to delicate, and ordinary to exquisite. The process and precision required are laborious, technically demanding, and always astonishing. The art of paper cutting dates back thousands of years, with early artwork emerging from sixth-century China, extending worldwide by the fourteenth century, and later sparking a wave of folk art traditions. Celebrating both innovation and tradition, this exhibition features the work of more than fifty artists, representing diverse styles, techniques, and sizes from three-inch artworks to sprawling, complex installations. Cut Up/Cut Out was organized by Carrie Lederer, curator of exhibitions, Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California.
June 8 – August 25, 2019
From saguaro cactus of the Southwest, big-leaf maple of the West Coast, and bloodroot spanning the Midwest to bottlebrush buckeye of the Eastern Seaboard, this exhibition curated by the American Society of Botanical Artists features artworks of America’s native plants. Familiar plants such as sunflowers and violets and rare species such as lady’s slipper orchids are highlighted in watercolors and other mediums. Botanical Art Worldwide: America’s Flora is part of a worldwide project in which national exhibitions are simultaneously on view at cultural institutions in twenty-five countries on six continents. Each exhibition features contemporary artwork of native plants by resident artists via a coordinated, international effort to increase appreciation of the world’s plant diversity and to link people with plants via botanical art.
On View in the Sculpture Garden & Grounds
The Museum’s grounds feature sculptures that delight visitors of all ages. From Deborah Butterfield’s Kua to Burt Brent’s The Heavyweight, a range of artistic styles and wonders of the natural world awaits. Among the highlights is Kent Ullberg’s striking bronze whooping cranes that stand as iconic sentinels at the garden’s entrance. Experience sculpture by following handicapped-accessible pathways throughout the sculpture garden, near the pond area, and to the Secret Garden. In June 2018, New York artist and landscape architect Bonnie Gale’s willow structure, Living Willow Dreams, was installed in the Woodson Art Museum’s Margaret Woodson Fischer Sculpture Garden; visit often to see how it grows.
Mission & History
With its mission is to enhance lives through art, the Woodson Art Museum continually strives for excellence in providing audiences with quality art experiences through the Museum’s collection, changing exhibitions, and education programs for all ages.
Both the Museum and the community have their roots in the lumber industry, and the Museum’s collection focused on avian themes and art of the natural world dovetails perfectly with north central Wisconsin’s natural beauty. The Museum is named in honor of Leigh Yawkey Woodson (1888-1963), a woman who with her husband, Aytchmonde P. Woodson (1881-1958), continued her family’s legacy of generosity in the Wausau community. Mr. and Mrs. Woodson had three daughters: Nancy Leigh Woodson Spire, Alice Woodson Forester, and Margaret Woodson Fisher. In 1973, John E. Forester and Alice Woodson Forester donated an English Tudor home and four-acre estate to be the community’s only art museum, one that would always be free to all. The home was renovated and a two-story gallery added. A second two-story gallery was added in 1987; a new main entrance was added in 1997; a 9,000-square-foot addition was completed in 2012, and subsequent renovations continue to enhance visitor experiences.
When it opened in 1976, the Museum featured the Woodson family’s decorative arts collection, including a complete set of bird and floral porcelains designed by Dorothy Doughty for Royal Worcester, and a collection of nineteenth-century glass baskets. These objects reflected Cyrus Yawkey’s (1862-1943) belief in the need “to cultivate a love for beauty in art and nature.” Today the collection focuses on art inspired by nature, primarily birds, and has grown to more than 14,000 objects. To initiate their promise of robust changing exhibitions, the Woodson family asked their friend and respected Wisconsin artist, Owen J. Gromme, (1896-1991) to organize the Museum’s inaugural exhibition. Public response to Birds of the Lakes, Fields and Forests so far exceeded expectations that it became the highly competitive annual juried Birds in Art, which has shown the work of hundreds of international artists. The Woodson Art Museum, which is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, remains the only full-service art museum in northern Wisconsin.
Doors opened – both physical and figurative – when Leigh Yawkey Woodson’s three daughters and their families had the foresight to give north central Wisconsin the gift of an art museum. Prioritizing barrier-free access throughout the physical facility benefits those with disabilities and all visitors. Hunter Kelch, a 26-year-old visitor with Cerebral Palsy who blogs about accessibility issues, gave the museum his first-ever five-wheelchair-star rating in August 2016 for full accessibility and great service. He and his mother “were able to sit in a beautiful setting and take a break from our hectic lives,” he wrote. “For that moment, we were mother and son, not caregiver and client.”
Offering ever-changing art experiences for all, the Woodson Art Museum resonates with Wisconsin Northwoods residents and tourists, the local Wausau community, the state of Wisconsin, and the world beyond.
For more information about the Woodson Art Museum, check the events calendar at www.lywam.org, e-mail the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 715-845-7010, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Woodson Art Museum Hours
First Thurs of each month 9am–7:30pm
Thursdays during Birds in Art 9am–7:30pm
Closed Mon & holidays, including New Year’s Day, Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas
Admission: Always Free Admission
Location: 700 N. 12th Street (Franklin & 12th Streets), Wausau, Wisconsin 54403-5007