Guitars that Rock the World on View

Wausau, Wisconsin: An exhibition comprising forty iconic guitars – from an acoustic lute to electric guitars – is on view at the Woodson Art Museum where performances, aficionados’ insights, a hands-on Sound Lab, and luthier’s studio feature the instrument that rocks the world.

Medieval to Metal: The Art & Evolution of the Guitar, a touring exhibition of The National Guitar Museum on view at the Woodson Art Museum through May 31, comprises design illustrations, guitars, and photographs of performers, bringing sound to life. Visitors are invited to riff, jam, and play guitars in the Woodson Art Museum’s Sound Lab and pluck oversized strings and design album covers in Art Park, the interactive family gallery.

Visiting artist Stevens Point luthier John Currier demonstrated how instrument design and construction affect sound during his residency, Thursday through Sunday, March 5 – 8.

The exhibition and array of programs highlight how this ever-changing instrument packs a cultural punch. As the guitar’s ancestors evolved over centuries from the earliest ouds and lutes, guitar makers experimented with shapes, materials, and accessories, seeking the perfect blend of beauty and sound. Musicians and luthiers continue to alter guitar design in their endless quest for a fresh aesthetic and sound that fuels creative synergy, musical innovation, and cultural change. Just as American guitar designers of the 1960s departed radically from the iconic hourglass shape, street-corner guitarists led the protest movement that challenged the status quo.

The guitar theme reverberates through performances, programs, and presentations designed for art and music lovers of all ages. Two visiting artists lead programs during residencies: luthier John Currier demonstrates how instrument design and construction affect sound, and guitar historian Michael Kudirka focuses on the guitar’s cultural impact throughout varied genres.

Thursday evening and weekend performances feature a range of styles from classical, blues, and jazz to folk, rock, and heavy metal.

Musical Thursday Performance Series  lineup, 5:30-6:30 p.m., in March and April.

  • March 5: Stevens Point luthier and guitarist John Currier, Building Guitars: Form & Function
  • March 12: Blues Guitar with Bobby Messano, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012
  • March 19: Irish & Regional Folk with St. Paul’s Brian Miller and Milwaukee’s Randy Gosa.
  • March 26: Folk Guitar with Robert “One-Man” Johnson
  • April 2: 80s and 90s Rock with Rico Jaeger
  • April 9: Heavy Metal and Shredding with Jeff Sandbom
  • April 16: University of Wisconsin-Marathon County Jazz Combo
  • April 23: Jazz with Tom McComb
  • April 30: Community Contemporary: Open Mic Night

Medieval to Metal curator and The National Guitar Museum executive director HP Newquist shares exhibition insights during a gallery walk on opening day, Saturday, February 28, 1-2 p.m.

Stevens Point guitar maker, author, and musician John Currier shares his skills, offering hands-on demonstrations, presentations, and in-gallery concerts during his residency, Thursday-Sunday, March 5-8. Currier kicks off the Musical Thursday Performance Series on March 5, 5:30-6:30 p.m., showcasing his re-created seventeenth-century guitar and a modern one.

All ages drop in during Guitar Maker’s Open Studio on Saturday, March 7, Noon- 5 p.m., when Currier shares techniques of his trade. Currier will be joined by Schmaltz Nouveau band mates John Koehler and Otis McLennon, regionally known from his “Otis & the Alligators” days, for a Tin-Pan-Alley-inspired performance on Saturday, March 7, 5:30-7 p.m. Currier leads a gallery walk during Instrument Insights & Performance, Sunday, March 8, 1-3 p.m.

Visitors drop in to pick up tips from area guitarists and music students during Sound Lab Learn & Play on Saturdays, 1-3 p.m., March 7, April 4, and May 2.

Those who dream of playing in a rock band – even novices – can participate in a Ready, Set, Rock workshop. Jeff Santy, founder of TuneSmith Academy, the Rhinelander rock and jazz band incubator, leads two workshops, teaching participants to play together in an hour on Saturday, March 21, 1-2 p.m. and 2-3 p.m., followed by a TuneSmith Academy performance, 3-5 p.m. Call 715-845-7010 to register for a workshop.

During three monthly visits to the Woodson, guitar historian and musician Michael Kudirka shares his expertise about the instruments through sounds and stories – from ancient lutes to digital duets. Kudirka focuses on Renaissance and Baroque lutes, March 27 & 28; classical guitars, April 10 & 11; and new millennium avant-garde guitars, May 8 & 9. On these dates, join Kudirka for Friday evening presentations, 5-6:30 p.m., and Saturday Sound Lab performances, 1-2:30 p.m. Kudirka also presents Art 101: Instrument Interpretations in Art & Literature, Thursday, May 7, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Kudirka narrates the Museum’s Medieval to Metal  free audio tour app – available beginning February 27 on a Museum iPod, your smartphone, or tablet.

Create a functional, single-stringed guitar during Cigar-Box Guitar Workshop on Saturday, April 18, 1-3 p.m. Join “show-and-tell” conversations with area guitar collectors on Sunday, April 19, 1-3 p.m. For details and to register for the workshop and/or as a collector sharing stories, call 715-845-7010.

Museum Programs for All Ages Tune into Guitar

Music and guitar themes echo through programs for babies through older adults.

The Museum’s monthly SPARK! programs for individuals with memory loss and accompanying friends or family members will be offered on the second Thursday of each month, March 12, April 9, and May 14, 10:30 a.m.-Noon; call 715-845-7010 to register.

Little ones, 18 months-4 years, and accompanying adults explore art, music, and guitar themes through hands-on art making during Toddler Tuesday on March 17, April 21, and May 19, 10:30 a.m.-Noon.

Visitors discover how rare and exotic woods alter a guitar’s appearance and sound. During three noon-hour Art 101 programs, 12:15-1 p.m., Mountain Fret Works owner Paul Szmanda and manager Wes Krumplitsch discuss varied aspects of guitars: Wednesday, March 18, Guitar Anatomy & Appreciation; Wednesday, April 15, A Wood & Sound Survey; Wednesday, May 20, Craftsmanship & Creativity: Custom & Iconic Guitars.

Art Beyond Sight, for individuals with blindness and low vision, provides a multisensory exploration of various instruments, led by the TuneSmith Academy’s Jeff Santy on Saturday, March 21, 10:30 a.m.-Noon. Call 715-845-7010 to register.

For program details, visit the Museum’s events calendar

Avian-Themed Collections Exhibitions Remain on View

The following Woodson Art Museum collection exhibitions remain on view through February 2015: Birdwatching: Selections from the Collection, The Art of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions, For the Birds: Rare and Extinct, and Carved & Cast. Two additional collection-based exhibitions remain on view through July 2015: Legacy Lost & Saved: Extinct and Endangered Birds of North America, inspired by Project Passenger Pigeon, a nationwide educational initiative marking the centennial of the species’ extinction, and The Great Marsh: Horicon Waterfowl.

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

Woodson Art Museum

Tues–Fri 9am–4pm
First Thurs each month 9am–7:30pm
All March & April 2015 Thurs 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)

URL links to images and caption information

Performer Photo:

Guitarist Bobby Messano plays the blues during the Musical Thursday Performance Series, on March 12, 5:30-6:30 pm, on the Museum’s Sound Lab stage. Messano was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.

Visting Artists:

Stevens Point guitar maker, author, and musician John Currier shares his skills, offering hands-on demonstrations, presentations, and in-gallery concerts during his residency, Thursday-Sunday, March 5-8.

Guitar historian and musician Michael Kudirka offers presentations about the guitar’s cultural significance and performs music from varied genres during three monthly visits to the Woodson Art Museum.

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