by Catie Anderson, curator of education
December is that special time of the year when school events, family gatherings, meal planning, travel, and dozens of other non-holiday projects on the to-do list start to drive most of us up the wall. While staff at the Woodson Art Museum aren’t anxiously scaling the walls yet, we do have quite a bit on our plates these days and even more exciting projects on the horizon.
It’s installation week at the Museum, which means the breakroom table is loaded with stress-reducing sweets; cookies, cake, candy, and donuts make up the current inventory to feed the brain and body. The 40th annual Birds in Art exhibition closed on Sunday and two new exhibitions – Forest Folklore: A Multisensory Experience and American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists’ Colony – open Saturday, December 5 and remain on view through Sunday, February 21, 2016.
Artist Ann Cunningham’s site-specific installation, Forest Folklore, and her two-week residency at the Woodson are projects that staff are eager to see unfold. Forest Folklore comprises Cunningham’s sculptures in slate, wood and bronze, serving as storybook tableaus that visitors are encouraged to gently touch. These tactile sculptures truly put art at our fingertips, encouraging all visitors to recognize the multisensory and many layered ways in which the visual arts can be enjoyed.
Ann and her husband, Charlie, arrived Monday after driving – more than 1,000 miles from Colorado to Wausau – a large truck filled with artwork and studio materials for Museum residency programs that begin Thursday evening, December 3. The installation team quickly unloaded and transported easels, sculpture, and more to the Museum’s gallery being transformed to resemble a nighttime forest path filled with the sounds and stories of woodland characters awaiting multisensory discovery by visitors.
Art Park, the Woodson’s interactive family gallery, also is undergoing a transformation this week as fresh interactives and hands-on art-making stations, designed and built by Museum staff, are installed to complement the new exhibitions.
Portraits of women in white dresses featured in the American Impressionism galleries, are snapshots of late-nineteenth-century, middle-class leisure and inspire young artists to develop their own portraits while seated in front of mirrors alongside Mary Cassatt drawings from the Woodson’s collection. The Impressionists’ obsession with changing light invites the layering of shapes and silhouettes on moveable Plexiglas arms to create cast shadows onto paper, offering an easy exercise in capturing light and shadow. Don’t miss these and more inventive and fun educational designs in Art Park where hands-on creative experiences abound.
To say that residency programs with Ann Cunningham are “hands-on” would be a vast understatement. The artist and Museum staff members are preparing for over 700 Pre-K through first-grade students who will visit during the next two weeks to explore the Forest Folklore exhibition, meet the artist, and work in the Woodson’s classroom to create small low-relief artworks of their own. Using tin and a stylist they will depict how two different emotions make them feel. If you could draw or sculpt how it feels to be “happy” or “grumpy,” what kinds of lines and forms would you create?
This project focuses on how we all – regardless of age – can reflect on and channel our emotions into something creative. The young students participating in Cunningham’s residency are at a critical learning stage when emotional development, communication, and new experiences offer opportunities to grow and make lasting connections between their internal and external senses of self and environment.
With so many enticing ideas, artworks, and projects swirling in my head this week, I’m trying to winnow my to-do list, which is as full as my calendar this month. For a welcome break from your December demands, stop by the Woodson Art Museum for a program or stroll through the galleries. You’re sure to find wall-to-wall creative energy.