Visiting Artists Bring Perspective

By: Rachel Hausmann-Schall, artist residency & adult program manager on March 6th, 2024

One the most important parts of earning a degree in fine arts is participating in critique, which provides time and space for students to talk about the concepts and processes present in their work so they can receive feedback from both peers and teachers. I studied Integrated Studio Arts at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) and I recall that some of the most poignant, challenging, and rewarding critiques I received were from visiting artists. Critiques can be very intimidating, so it’s not uncommon that feedback can sometimes take a while to sink in, especially if you are lucky enough to have the captive attention of an established visual artist reviewing your work. Artists like Jeanine Durning, Stephanie Barber, Dana Schutz, Irene Tsatsos, and several others gave valuable feedback during my college critiques, and their thoughts and suggestions stay with me to this day.

Although it’s been almost 10 years (whew those words make me feel old!) since I was in college, I still enjoy working with visiting artists in my role at the Woodson Art Museum. Recently, I collaborated with Museum staff to facilitate a week-long residency with Yuyi Morales, who traveled to Wausau from Xalapa, Mexico to coincide with the Museum’s hosting of Soñadora: Yuyi Morales. Her residency included several outreach initiatives with local elementary schools, where Yuyi interacted with Spanish-speaking students.

Visiting artist Yuyi Morales during outreach

Students soaked up Yuyi’s every word – just as I did during impactful experiences gained with visiting artists in college – you could simply feel the magic and awe in the classroom as she spoke. While they listened to her stories and songs, Yuyi also talked about her experiences as an immigrant. Some students even shared a similar story as Yuyi, immigrating to the United States with their families.

Visiting Artist Yuyi Morales during outreach

Now, the main galleries have transitioned to feature the 47th Annual Student Art Exhibition highlighting the original and creative efforts of regional students in grades 9-12 which opened this past Saturday. Also on the same afternoon, through a collaboration with UW-Madison, visiting artist Laura Anderson Barbata invited local artists, educators, and activists to the Museum’s lower lever classroom for a discussion about water. Speakers included Carol Ann Amour, Mary Burns, Wayne Valliere, Mildred “Tinker” Schuman, and Nate Zurawski. The conversation ranged from craft-based practices like canoe-building and weaving to poetry and initiatives that create safe drinking water. Learn more about their work here.

Community conversation during FLOW: Artists, Activists, and Educators Working with Water

Artist Mary Burns speaking during FLOW: Artists, Activists, and Educators Working with Water 

During the program, several attendees shared their own perspectives about water in the local community, its importance, how to educate about it, and advocating for its protection for future generations. It was an honor to hear from speakers that have dedicated their practices to these types of initiatives and activism. The event brought me back to my days at MIAD, taking in the knowledge, feedback, and conversation from visiting artists. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to engage with artists at the Woodson Art Museum during upcoming programming. Right now, staff are working hard to develop thoughtful and engaging programs to complement the upcoming summer exhibition, Women Reframe American Landscape, which opens May 4. Hopefully, you will get to take advantage of opportunities with visiting artists too!

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