WAUSAU – Two new exhibitions recently debuted at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau.

The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality” opened Dec. 3, and “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic” also opened recently. Both are on view through Feb. 26, 2023. 

Naga Helmet, India, mid-20th Century, cane, dyed goat hair, boar tusks, 2012, courtesy of Hat Horizons. Photograph by Matthew Hillman.

“The Global Language of Headwear: Cultural Identity, Rites of Passage & Spirituality” explores the vital role of ceremonial headwear through diverse cultural customs, beliefs and rituals. Featuring headwear from 43 countries spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America, with most from the mid to late 20th Century, many types are still worn today for revelry, ritual and rhythms of everyday life. 

 The “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic” exhibition features a tip-top tale and puts a local spin on global headwear. From invention and evolution over a century, the stylish and durably designed Stormy Kromer hat is interwoven into Wisconsin culture. The lore is part of the lure. A pull-down ear band stitched to a baseball cap kept a train worker’s head warm and dry amid winter winds. Ida Kromer’s innovative alteration solved the hat-flying-off problem for her husband, “Stormy” – once a semi-pro baseball player and railroad engineer – while he worked on his locomotive. And so, the Stormy Kromer was born. The caps originally were designed and fabricated in 1903 in northeastern Wisconsin and then in Milwaukee from 1919 until Jacquart Fabric Products purchased Stormy Kromer in 2001. Kromer hats continue to be made by the Jacquart company in the Great Lakes Region – in Ironwood, Michigan, near the Wisconsin border in Michigan’s upper peninsula. It’s now an iconic, internationally known brand. 

Upcoming program highlights 

  • During a “Light’s Edge” Gallery Walk on Jan. 5, 5:30-6:30 p.m., curator of collections Amalia Wojciechowski shares insights into “Light’s Edge: The American Nocturne,” featuring artwork from the museum’s collection depicting avian life in twilight. 
  • SPARK! programs for adults with early-to-mid-stage memory loss and their care partners focus on “The Global Language of Headwear” on Jan. 12, 10:30 a.m.-noon, and on the Stormy Kromer exhibition on Feb. 9, 10:30 a.m.-noon. Register online at www.lywam.org/learn-do/program-registration or call 715-845-7010. To schedule a specialized SPARK! experience, contact scheduling@lywam.org or 715-845-7010. 
  • Making @ the Museum drop-in programs for all will be on Jan. 18, 1-3 p.m., and Feb. 22, 1-3 p.m. 
  • Bob Jacquart, the chairman of Jacquart Fabric Products which owns Stormy Kromer, leads a gallery walk through “Stormy Kromer: Evolution of a Classic,” on Jan. 21, 1-2 p.m. 
  • With a nod to the Stormy Kromer exhibition, Team USA Snow Sculptors – Mike Martino, Tom Queoff, and Mike Sponholtz – work their winter wonders Jan. 28, during their 33rd year creating snow sculptures at the Woodson Art Museum. 
  • During Art Beyond Sight on Jan. 28, 10:30 a.m.-noon, individuals with low vision and blindness explore the Stormy Kromer exhibition via a multisensory gallery experience, led by museum educators, and time with guest artist and Team USA Snow Sculptor Mike Martino. Register online at www.lywam.org/learn-do/program-registration or call 715-845-7010. To schedule a specialized Art Beyond Sight experience, contact scheduling@lywam.org or 715-845-7010. 
  • Get insights from a group coordinated by the Central Wisconsin Hmong Professionals into garments and headwear from various regions and clans during a panel presentation Feb. 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m. and “Regalia Runway” fashion shows on Feb. 4, 11 a.m.-noon and 2-3 p.m.; Q&A follows each morning and afternoon runway show. 

For more information, visit www.lywam.org, email the museum at info@lywam.org or call 715-845-7010.