Memorial Union : Host to WP&S 2003 Wisconsin Artistís Biennial, Celebrates 75th Anniversary

by Lindsay Elizabeth Girard

Porter Butts
Over the past 75 years, artwork has played a large role in establishing a cultural atmosphere at the Memorial Union. When the Memorial Union Gallery opened in 1928, it was one of only two galleries in Madison, Wisconsin. Since its opening 75 years ago, the Unionís permanent collection has grown to include over 1300 pieces created by artists from all over the world. One cannot wander through the Union without passing a painting done by an internationally recognized artist. The Memorial Unionís unique status as a university landmark allows the galleryís art collection to take on a pivotal role in providing the Madison public with access to a living cultural history, a history that most private galleries and museums lack.
Porter Butts captured the mission of the Unionís collection most eloquently in 1941: ďArt, if it is to have real vitality, must be identified with daily livingónot the occasion for a rare and unwilling visit on Sunday afternoon to a silent, hollow classroom gallery or to a barred museum, to look over the shoulder of a gloomy guard at the great, but untouchable picture. The untouchable picture usually leaves the spectator untouched also.Ē Thanks to the determination of Porter Butts and the efforts of the student-run art committee, the Union has been able to provide the public with a kinetic, ever-evolving collection of artwork.
The pieces that make up the Unionís collection are largely responsible for providing Madison students with a social education that Porter Butts so ardently desired. The cultural history of the collection as well as its ties to the University make the collection one of the largest to celebrate the development of art in the state of Wisconsin. The Unionís artwork is one of the few permanent collections that boasts artwork from world- renowned artists as well as local student artists attempting to forge their way into the contemporary art scene.
One of the most unique aspects of the Union Galleries is the role the University students play in the development of the collection. Not only does the student-run art committee display pieces from the permanent collection around the Union, they also curate monthly exhibits that show in the three union galleries. The diversity of the shows along with the cutting-edge nature of the artists exhibited is responsible for the galleriesí reputation as a hot-spot in the Madison art scene.
This fall the Porter Butts Gallery will proudly display the 2003 Wisconsin Artists Biennial. The show acts as an appropriate launching pad for this yearís ambitious schedule. Director Laura Amundson of the student run art committee looks forward to this yearís upcoming exhibition schedule: ďWe have quite a schedule in store for the Unionís 75th birthday celebration. Pulling off this yearís exhibits will take a lot of hard work from both the artists and the student committee members, but we look forward to seeing the results.Ē
The Wisconsin Artists Biennial will open in the Porter Butts Gallery Friday, September 12th. The reception runs from 7:00 to 9:00 in the Main Hall where the jurorís best in show will be awarded. The Union along with Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors invites all those interested to attend the reception. For any further inquiries regarding the gallery opening or the upcoming Union Galleryís schedule contact Laura Amundson, art committee director, at (608) 262-7592.

Porter Butts
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