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My Artist Residency at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI
Last week I had the honor of being the artist in residence at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. (It took me about a month to memorize saying that without tripping over my tongue.) The residency was in conjunction with my exhibition ReDress: Upcycled Style that is traveling to museums around the United States.
During my residency I presented a public lecture and a gallery talk, met with several school groups, gave three workshops (paper bead making, T-Shirt transformations, decoupage magazine jars) and emceed a recycled fashion show. It was a busy four days!
I was excited to see how the Woodson staff installed my exhibition and augmented the educational aspect of the show. Every day I discovered new elements they created to engage diverse audiences in learning about the environmental message behind my work. Specifically thank you to Catie Anderson, Andy McGiven and Jayna Hintz for all their tremendous work. Following are some examples of just a few of the educational elements they added to the show.
Additionally, upon entering the exhibition, museum attendees are offered an iPod that contains short video clips of me talking about my work, and in the first gallery they can take an eco-pledge that is then posted on the wall to inspire others. The museum even has programing designed for people with memory loss that utilizes music. For example when viewing The Recycled Bathing Beauty (a swim suit covered in plastic detergent bottles) Summertime Blues, a song from the 1950s, is played.
My residency actually started in February at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I spent 3 days on campus with students from 5 classes that are part of the Textile and Apparel Design Program. I gave several lectures sharing photos of my work; advice on being an entrepreneurial artist; and techniques, tools and safety tips for working with waste materials. I also spent two days in the classrooms with the students listening to their design ideas for their up-cycled fashions and giving suggestions where I could. For details read my blog post about the trip.
Forty of their finished fashions and accessories were showcased in a recycled fashion show during my residency that I had the honor of emceeing. So many people attended that we had to repeat the show a second time so everyone could see it. The community really came out to support the event. See a short news clip of the fashion show, and more photos.
Wausau is in northern Wisconsin, and it felt a little like traveling back a month in time being there. They had had cold weather and rain, and not seen the sun in over 30 days until the last day of my residency. I was amazed at how many people came to hear my gallery talk that lovely spring day– the sun is tough competition in a community that has been deprived of blue skies and warm weather over an unseasonably long winter!
After one of my talks, the Museum received the following e-mail from one of the attendees, I was so touched by her words:
“When I planned on attending RePurposed & ReImagined, I did not expect that it would impact me on the emotional levels I am trying to express. I feel as though I just had the opportunity to meet a person that is living my dream. I am struggling to find a place in the world for my creative outlet as well as a purpose in my professional life. It was an honor to show my most proud accomplishment to an artist that I feel truly understands the emotional energy behind it.
Although I have yet to figure out where I belong in the art world, seeing this exhibit has given me hope that there might be a place for me and hopefully Arts Management will help guide me.
Sincerely, Amber Larsen”
I want to thank all the staff at the Woodson for doing such an amazing job of exhibiting and interpreting my work, and for taking such great care of me during my residency, I had a ball! Also, thank you to the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Arts Board, the B.A. and Esther Greenheck Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts for funding my residency at the Woodson.