The Wisconsin Visual Art Hall of Fame

We may never see John Wilde bobbleheads or “I [heart] Warrington” T-shirts. But we can still do a lot more to publicly recognize and cultivate an appreciation for Wisconsin’s great artists, the art historians and scholars who write about them, and the patrons who support them. That’s the thinking of three influential Wisconsin arts organizations—Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors; the West Bend Art Museum; and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters—that are spearheading a larger effort to establish Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Awards. The awards will be bestowed upon those individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, support, and growth of visual arts in Wisconsin, says Thomas H. Lidtke, director of the West Bend Art Museum. Why is such an honor needed in our state? “Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, American regionalism was beginning to wane,” notes Lidtke. “All eyes were cast to the East. Any artist who did not have a gallery on the East Coast or seek East Coast recognition was overlooked. We have a number of significant artists in this region who have not been recognized. That goes for living artists as well.” Having a lifetime achievement award would recognize those individuals who have reached a significant level of accomplishment in Wisconsin or outside Wisconsin if they are from here, says Lidtke. By and large, such artists will be mid-career or advanced career in their development. Likewise, patrons and art historians honored will also have long and established track records. Present plans call for honorees to have their art and writings presented in an online gallery—a virtual “hall of fame.” Temporary exhibits of their work may also be shown in such venues as the West Bend Art Museum and the Wisconsin Academy Gallery, says Lidtke. As for a permanent home with a permanent display? “If a patron comes along and makes an offer, we’ll certainly talk about it,” says Lidtke. For more information, contact Lidtke at 262/334-9638; Randall Berndt of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters at 608/263-1692 ext. 25; or Gary John Gresl of Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors at 414/357-6822.