Sherry Ackerman always liked drawing but kept her hobby a secret. When she retired from teaching, she entered an exhibition in Lake Mills through the Wisconsin Regional Art Program (WRAP).
“I got an honorable mention,” Ackerman tells Wisconsin Life, Wisconsin Public Radio’s program about state culture. “I called everyone I knew, I was so excited. It gave me so much encouragement that someone liked my work besides my friends and family.”
Since 1940, the Wisconsin Regional Art Program has helped nonprofessional artists develop their creative abilities. It holds workshops and exhibitions around the state, along with an annual conference and showcase exhibition in Madison. The 2016 conference will be held on September 24 and is open to the public.
After her Lake Mills triumph, Ackerman began showing and selling her work. She got involved in the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association and won WRAP’s Ella Gardner Award and Helen Croft Fine Art Award.
“Now it’s in my blood,” Ackerman says. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t allow time to paint. And if I don’t, I feel like something’s missing.”
The Wisconsin Idea
The Wisconsin Regional Art Program, inspired by the Wisconsin Idea, began as a UW-Madison initiative to engage rural Wisconsin in cultural activities. The American Regionalist artist John Steuart Curry, who served as the university’s artist-in-residence from 1936-46, became a mentor to adults in small communities who wanted to pursue art in their spare time.
Since then thousands have participated in the program, which has expanded to include urban areas. Some of them, inspired by their work in WRAP, went on to become professional artists, notably Nick Engelbert, Harry Nohr, and Lois Ireland Zwettler.
For more information about Wisconsin Regional Art Program, contact Liese Pfeifer, 608-262-4911, firstname.lastname@example.org.