The Regional Art Junkie

by Gary John Gresl


The West Bend Art Museum has made its official announcement about its expanded mission to become the “Museum of Wisconsin Art”. This is an opportunity that must be promoted by every artist in our state, and supported by all those citizens who want to improve our culture and economy.

The wealthy should be on board to help in the cause. Building such a museum is a winning strategy to benefit our citizens for generations. Tax exempt donations to such a museum can be personally beneficial, but also benefit a much larger population for decades to come. Any person with a supportive voice can provide help to create this museum. Here are some thoughts concerning benefits derived if a Museum of Wisconsin Art is created:

1. The process of creating a Wisconsin centered museum will engender opportunities to focus on our strengths and weaknesses as a center of visual art, culture and support.

2. The existing embers of interest in historic and contemporary art can be fanned to elevate discourse, lifting that discussion to much higher levels, improving the environment for ongoing study and support.

3. Having a focal point that exhibits our regional art will provide opportunities for the public to learn from the art of our area, and which will promote and feed an ongoing interest in art and art making that benefits the general public, artists and students. A collection of Wisconsin art housed in a specialized museum can provide teaching and learning opportunities that go on for generations.

4. There can be an increase in tourism and financial improvement as a result of a professional museum attracting interested people to any community and to the state at large.

5. A regional museum, supported by the citizens of the state, will serve proudly as a means to elevate the fine art from the state thru exhibits, resultant discussion and an increasing ripple effect that brings attention to our state.

6. Having a focal point for art produced by Wisconsin artists can provide several ways to lift our artists, past and present, from relative obscurity at local, regional and national levels.

7. There can be continued opportunities for publicity that benefits the area and leads to discussion about the vitality of the arts in Wisconsin as reason to live and work in this environment.

8. The West Bend Art Museum has already shown that there is a strong and vital history of visual art making in this state that parallels other aspects of state history. An enlarged museum concentrating on art produced here can serve as a center benefiting other existing institutions, such as the Wisconsin State Historical Society, local historical organizations, the Milwaukee County Museum, other art museums, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, and so on.

9. Such an institution can serve as the nucleus for scholarly research, not only into art history, but also into the nature of past society and culture. It can be a true educational resource that touches a wide diverse audience.

Finally, Consider this quote from the New York Times. The title of the article is “Triennial in Paris: France Tries to Bolster Its Image in Contemporary Art”, by Alan Riding, May 27, 2006

“One reason French contemporary art has not made much of a mark abroad is that it has not made much of a mark at home. This is not necessarily the artists’ fault, as the French press pays infinitely less attention to contemporary artists than it does to, say, today’s writers or movie directors. The French public also seems less than enthusiastic about contemporary art.”
Does that have a familiar ring to it? Just put “Wisconsin” in place of the word, French.
There is a lot to gain by the regional citizenry and public officials putting their weight and investment into a regional museum of art that concentrates on both historic and contemporary Wisconsin art. This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Let us not let it slip from our grasp.