WAUSAU – The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced that for the second consecutive year, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, is a National Medal finalist for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community.

As a 2017 National Medal finalist, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is one of three art museums among the 15 museums and 15 libraries named National Medal finalists by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency supporting the nation’s 123,000 libraries and approximately 35,000 museums.

From its opening day on Saturday, March 4, 2017, the iconic work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher has drawn both rave reviews and record-setting crowds to the Woodson Art Museum for “M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion.” Featuring more than 100 drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints, news of this exhibition has spread like wildfire thanks to a social media campaign fueled by a Wisconsin Department of Tourism Joint Effort Marketing grant. Photo by Richard Wunsch, Wausau

Finalists are chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. For 23 years, the award has celebrated institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service and are making a difference for individuals, families and communities.

“The 2017 National Medal Finalists represent the leading museums and libraries that serve as catalysts for change in their communities,” said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “It is our honor to recognize 30 notable institutions for their commitment to providing programs and services that improve the lives of individuals, families and communities. We salute them and their valuable work in providing educational opportunities to their community and celebrate the power libraries and museums can have across the country.”

IMLS is encouraging community members who visited the Woodson Art Museum to share their story on the IMLS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/USIMLS on Monday, April 3. To Share Your Story and learn more about how these institutions make an impact, please visit www.facebook.com/USIMLS.

Woodson Art Museum director Kathy Kelsey Foley credited the community’s enthusiasm for embracing the full range of engagement opportunities and propelling staff to continually raise the bar. “It is a privilege to share observations and firsthand experiences of how a visit to the Woodson Art Museum can change someone’s point of view, expand their understanding of the world beyond the community, or brighten a day,” she said. “Recognition of the Woodson Art Museum by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service is among the highest forms of validation, not only for those of us who work in the museum field, but also that can be appreciated by community members at large. Being honored as a National Medal finalist brings recognition to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum from a federal agency on a national stage. We are grateful beyond words.”

Summer design lab
Among the Museum’s most popular recent educational offerings was the summer 2016 “Design Lab” held in mid-July. Here, children ages 5-8, under the tutelage of Woodson Art Museum educators, designed and re-purposed chairs, inspired by the exhibition on view, “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design.” Once complete, these young designers’ chairs were included in an exhibition showcasing their work at the Woodson Art Museum. Photo by Richard Wunsch, Wausau.

Comprising the 30 National Medal finalists are 15 libraries and 15 museums, which include three art museums, five children’s museums, three science institutions, two historical institutions, the Detroit Zoological Society, and the Alaska State Museum. The three art museums are the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, California, the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, and the Woodson Art Museum. To see the full list of finalists and learn more about the National Medal, visit www.imls.gov/2017-medals.

The National Medal winners will be announced later this spring. The representatives from winning institutions will travel to Washington, D.C., to be honored at the National Medal award ceremony.

 In addition to being named a National Medal finalist in 2016 and 2017, the Woodson Art Museum also was the 2016 winner of the Wisconsin Governor’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage tourism award.

 With its mission “to enhance lives through art,” the Woodson Art Museum provides visitors with barrier-free access to a vast array of visual-arts experiences including via ever-changing artwork in the galleries, the sculpture garden, and Art Park – the Museum’s interactive family gallery, visiting artists’ presentations and workshops, hands-on art making, and programs for all ages and life stages – from babies, children, and families to students during class visits and teens and adults.

Woodson Art Museum programs enliven and amplify themes from temporary changing exhibitions, ranging from Tiffany Studios leaded-glass lampshades and M.C. Escher lithographs to each new iteration of the Museum’s internationally renowned “Birds in Art” presented each fall. The Woodson Art Museum’s historic and contemporary collection sets a world standard for avian- and nature-themed art.

 Themes from these ever-changing exhibitions are woven throughout programs that span the age and life-stage spectrum – from Art Babies, launched in 2009 for little ones and accompanying adults, to SPARK!, created in 2010 for individuals with early- to mid-stage memory loss and their loved ones or care partners. Art Beyond Sight, implemented in 2006, provides multisensory ways for individuals with blindness or low vision to experience the visual arts.

As the only full-service art museum in northern Wisconsin, the Woodson Art Museum offers a myriad of community engagement opportunities and maintains its more than four-decade commitment to always-free admission.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and approximately 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.