The Value of Regional Art
As we search for a deeper understanding of ourselves, it is—above all else—our history
that defines our existence. When comparing ourselves to those who have come before
us, it is not prose, poetry or song that can transport us back to our earliest days.
The single, most important record of how we as individuals, as a society and as
a species have transformed throughout the ages can only be found in our artwork.
While it is now possible to store books, music, and art on a computer, the only
way to preserve our priceless works of art is to place them in a museum. Art museums
not only ensure that our paintings, photographs and sculptures remain as beautiful
as the day they were created, but they also give us the opportunity to enjoy these
creations in a manner that cannot be reproduced in any other way.
While museums like the Guggenheim in New York, or the Louvre in Paris, contain breathless
masterpieces, their exhibits are designed to appeal to the widest, cross section
of the population. It is however, the expression of one’s own environment that inspires
visual art. The immense cultural value of regional art naturally flows from this
belief. It is therefore, only through regional art museums that we hear our story
through the eyes of our artists.
Wisconsin Art and Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA)
The richness of Wisconsin art is reflective of the richness of its landscapes and
history - from the breathtaking lakes and rolling hills carved out by its massive
glaciers, to the pastures, factories, and cities carved out by the early settlers
and industrialists, to the modern day metropolis, research centers, and universities.
With this historic and scenic background, it is no mystery why Wisconsin has provided
such a rich source of inspiration for artists looking to showcase their talents.
As the only museum in the world dedicated to collecting and maintaining works of
art from this region, the Museum of Wisconsin Art provides an insight to the human
condition that is unavailable elsewhere. Noted Wisconsin historian John Gurda reinforces
the importance of the MOWA with his quote, “After decades of quiet but diligent collecting,
West Bend has emerged as the undisputed capital of Wisconsin art. For anyone who
wants to understand our state’s aesthetic heritage all roads lead to West Bend.”
North Point (Day)
Established in 1961, the Museum of Wisconsin Art has, over the past fifty years,
transformed itself from a small community-based gallery to the principal museum
in the state that focuses exclusively on the visual art history of Wisconsin. As
a collecting institution, the MOWA selects, gathers, preserves, analyzes and exhibits
art that has been produced over 1000 years not only for posterity but for current
and future generations to enjoy and study. MOWA exhibitions honor the artists of
the past through historically-focused shows, and demonstrate a very strong commitment
to contemporary Wisconsin artists via solo and group exhibitions. Through these
historic and contemporary exhibitions, the MOWA is committed to exhibiting work by
the numerous ethnic groups who call Wisconsin home: Native Americans, European origin
groups, African Americans and Hmong. For connoisseurs or those with a general interest
in art, we provide access, in person and through the internet, to our unparalleled
archives of over 8000 files plus books and catalogs. This archive is unequalled
The growth of the Museum of Wisconsin Art requires that a new structure replace
the present building. The existing building was constructed in 1939, and its infrastructure
cannot preserve art work properly over the long term. The current building has had
four additions to its original structure and another modification could not address
the significant failings of the current building’s capacity to store and showcase
works of art.
In addition, more space is needed for galleries, adult and children’s art classrooms,
storage, and archival space if the museum is to continue its pursuit of Wisconsin
Carl von Marr Gallery
As the Museum continues to build a national and international reputation as the
pre-eminent institution for Wisconsin artists, the new facility will further its
ability to fulfill its mission: The Museum of Wisconsin Art celebrates the value,
diversity and uniqueness of the visual arts and artists of Wisconsin. This is achieved
by collecting, conserving, documenting, exhibiting and promoting aesthetic understanding
of the visual arts of Wisconsin.. The improved physical plant and the increase
in the size of the new building will add much needed exhibition and storage space
and address the critical shortage for classroom facilities. The new facility also
provides for a significantly larger lobby area and amenities space that will encourage
more public use of the Museum through tours and special events.
Ultimately, the MOWA is an essential institution for Wisconsin. It has willingly
adopted the role of custodian of the state’s visual culture, it acknowledges the
immense pride felt by residents towards the state, acts as a repository and archive
for art and research materials for residents and those around the world, and, in
its new building, a point of local and state-wide civic pride.
Without museums such as the MOWA, significant contributions to the region’s heritage
would be overlooked and missed. If the past is a predictor of the future – all voices
must be heard – and it is only through museums such as the MOWA that we can rest
assured the whole story is told.