Wisconsin Regional Art Program champions the Wisconsin Idea

painting of circles

The Wisconsin Regional Art Program (WRAP) offers exhibitions and workshops, encouraging nonprofessional artists around the state. It’s also a beacon of American democracy, given its connection to the storied Wisconsin Idea.

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‘Cherry Parfait’ by Deb Shimondle. Above: ‘360 Degrees II’ by Elizabeth Sawyer Kelly.

That’s the theme of “Visual Art and the Wisconsin Idea,” a Wisconsin Public Television broadcast that explores WRAP’s rich history and philosophy. Arts administrator Maryo Gard Ewell discusses WRAP’s origins at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while seven readers quote 20th century arts and political figures to provide cultural context.

“The University of Wisconsin works with people to offer instruction, inspiration, an opportunity for critique, and the uncovering of personal talent or vision,” Gard says. “Only in Wisconsin has such a program grown. No other state has had the commitment of its state university to its artists and its people for the century that Wisconsin has had.”

Every corner of the state

In her introductory remarks, director Liese Pfeifer explains that the Wisconsin Regional Art Program provides exhibition opportunities for both emerging and veteran artists, serving more than 400 people in the last cycle.

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‘Visual Art and the Wisconsin Idea’ on Wisconsin Public Television explores WRAP’s rich history and philosophy.

“We reach every corner of the state,” Pfeifer says, “connecting community to campus with lifelong learning.”

Gard, the daughter of Wisconsin arts advocate Robert Gard, traces the origins of the Wisconsin Regional Art Program to the century-old Wisconsin Idea: the notion that University of Wisconsin research should directly serve the state’s communities. In 1940, the university hired celebrated painter John Steuart Curry as its first artist-in-residence to do outreach throughout Wisconsin. Seventy-seven years later, the tradition continues.

Every year, the Wisconsin Regional Art Program and its nonprofit partner organization, the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association, mount a showcase for artists who’ve won awards in regional WRAP exhibitions. The 2017 Annual Art Exhibition takes place at Wausau’s Center for Visual Arts on Aug. 18-23. The State Day Conference, also in Wausau on Sept. 22-23, celebrates Wisconsin visual art with a talk by artist and gallery owner Margaret LeMay.

Learn more about the Wisconsin Regional Art Program or contact Liese Pfeifer, liese.pfeifer@wisc.edu, 608-262-4911 for more information.