The Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts

by Kristi Williams

The Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts
In the last issue of Art In Wisconsin AIW profiled the Wisconsin Visual Art Hall of Fame/Lifetime Achivement Awards. There is another institution in Wisconsin which has a long and venerable tradition of granting awards. To ward off any confusion that might arise and to share the good work that they do, I have invited Kristi Williams to explain the history and mission of the Wisconsin Foundation in Support of the Arts.

The Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts is a private, nonprofit membership organization formed in 1957 for the purpose of encouraging support of the arts in Wisconsin. Best known for sponsoring the annual Governors Awards in Support of the Arts, the Foundation has an advisory committee consisting of leaders in business, government and the arts. It publishes a biennial Arts Letter that is distributed to members and friends statewide.

The Governor’s Awards in Support of the Arts ceremony was established in 1980 by then WFA Chairman Jerry Bartell to recognize extraordinary contributions made by arts leaders and patrons to the vitality of the arts in their communities. For more than two decades, WFA has shared with the state’s chief executive the pleasure of honoring some 120 individuals, businesses, and organizations. Award winners come from every corner of Wisconsin—Bayfield to Racine, Door County to Dodgeville.

An excellent historical account of the organization’s origin and accomplishments written by UW Emeritus Professor Fannie Taylor is found in a retrospective of the first decade of Governor’s Awards in Support of the Arts published in 1992. The booklet’s highlight is a series of gorgeous reproductions of the commissioned prints awarded during those years, accompanied by an insightful description of each penned by the late James Watrous, Emeritus Professor of Art History, UW-Madison.

A second retrospective booklet published this year includes a commentary written by George Tzougros, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Arts Board, and reproductions of the artwork presented to Governors Awards recipients from 1992 through 2002, with descriptions by Elvehjem Museum of Art Director, Russell Panczenko.

For more information contact the Foundation’s Executive Director Kristi A. Williams at 608/839-4758.
Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts
P.O. Box 1404
Madison, WI 53701-1404

The Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts Spiral Motif Bowl, created by Chuck Beckwith for the 1996 Governor's Awards.
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