Exhibition narrates the evolution of Racine Art Museum's Wustum Museum through art

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Exhibition narrates the evolution of Racine Art Museum's Wustum Museum through art
75 at 75: Significant Works from RAM’s Collection. Installation photography: Jon Bolton, Racine.

RACINE, WI.- Throughout 2017, Racine Art Museum is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its forebear, the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts—established in 1941. Open through December 30, 2017, 75 at 75: Significant Works from RAM’s Collection reflects over seven decades of building relationships. This exhibition reflects the dynamic growth of the collection over an extended period of time as told through objects. The artworks included outline the depth and richness of RAM’s holdings. The sculptures, vessels, art jewelry, furniture, and two-dimensional images also highlight compelling stories about the works themselves, how they came into RAM’s possession, or the people who owned or created them.

RAM’s Wustum Museum began as a community arts center that offered studio classes, exhibitions, and community and art activities. Without a permanent collection, Wustum borrowed from artists, galleries, and private lenders. The first gift of artwork––prints, watercolors, drawings, photographs, and textiles generated through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression of the 1930s—laid the groundwork for RAM’s permanent collection that now holds almost 10,000 works. The WPA gift also foreshadowed what would eventually become the collecting foci—works on paper and contemporary craft. Wustum’s collection became RAM’s collection when Racine Art Museum opened its doors in 2003.

The connections established among artists, donors, and institutions shape the growth and direction of a permanent collection. These associations are acknowledged through the artworks themselves. In essence, while standing on their own as artist-made objects or images, the artworks included in this exhibition can also be understood as access points to larger narratives about Wustum and RAM. Their “significance” as individual pieces is interwoven with the story of the museum that has become their permanent home.

Masters of Craft
75 at 75 is punctuated with photographic portraits of many of the featured artists taken by Paul Smith, former curator and director of the American Craft Museum (now Museum of Arts and Design) in New York City. Also open September 17 through December 30, 2017, Paul Smith: Masters of Craft features casual portraits in various settings, including the artists’ studios, conferences, and international events.

These “snapshots,” or highlights––that help to celebrate the 75th anniversary––are a summary of what has happened at Wustum and RAM but they are by no means an exhaustive accounting of important works or people. In fact, other significant artworks have been purposely held from this show as RAM carefully plans for other upcoming exhibitions.

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