Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend

The West Bend Art Museum is pleased to announce its plans to transform itself into the Museum of Wisconsin Art.

Tom Lidtke, Executive Director of the West Bend Art Museum stated, ďAs plans become finalized the museumís board of directors will likely institute a name change to reflect the fact that this is not simply one cityís museum or collection, but rather a Wisconsin museum and collection. We relish this challenge and opportunity and we are eager to share these developments with our community and the citizens of Wisconsin.Ē

After 18 months of preliminary studies, museum officials are committed to becoming Wisconsinís regional art museum and are now in the midst of planning the transition. The museum has become widely known throughout the country as the home of the most comprehensive collection of Early Wisconsin Art and the Wisconsin Art Archive Ė the primary source for information on early Wisconsin art. The goal is to become one of many regional art museums in the country with a collection chronologically representative of the stateís visual art media.

ďThe depth and breadth of this vision will depend on the generosity of Wisconsinites and their desire for our state to be one of about two dozen that have regional art museums. How well we fulfill this cultural and historic service to Wisconsin will depend on the resources available to us. We understand what is needed and will progress accordingly,Ē said Lidtke.

The West Bend Art Museumís new vision follows an historic pattern of focusing on Wisconsin art that has been in place since it was founded in 1961 with a core collection of paintings by Carl von Marr, one of Wisconsinís most noted late 19th century artists. (Marr was related to the museumís founding Andrew and Melitta S. Pick family). In 1988 the museumís collection management policy was modified, resulting in the assembly of a significant vintage collection of regional art from Wisconsinís golden age of cultural development. That collection was first unveiled a decade later as part of Wisconsinís sesquicentennial celebrations in 1998. Since then the reputation of the museumís collections and archives has gained such momentum that today it is the leading source of art and information on this topic.

Currently the museumís collection is focused with just under 2,000 works of art, representing over one hundred Wisconsin artists from the timeframe of the 1830s in Wisconsin to around 1950; the archives represent nearly 6,000 artists during the same timeframe. However, art was created in Wisconsin hundreds of years before white settlement and to not acknowledge that, or any of the art that was created in contemporary times, creates a limited and narrow understanding of Wisconsin art. The vision of a comprehensive collection has great potential and to that end, the museum has already established relationships with individuals and institutions to fill in gaps, round out the collection, keep exhibits fresh and reduce redundancies and costs.

A generous gift of $1M has been given to lead the way in creating the only museum of Wisconsin art. Mrs. Nelson shares the philosophy of her late husband Cliff who believed in giving back to the community and society.

The West Bend Art Museum is located in downtown West Bend at 300 South 6th Avenue. Public hours are Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 - 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 262-334-9638 or visit their website at