The James Watrous Gallery is a place to explore and learn about contemporary art in Wisconsin. A program of the Wisconsin Academy, the Watrous Gallery shows art from around the state and investigates ideas at the intersection of the sciences, arts, and letters. For all of our exhibitions, we strive to create a welcoming environment that encourages engagement and inquiry.
Paired solo shows are the gallery's most consistent format, although we present curated exhibitions as well. Solo exhibits present a significant body of artwork by a single artist, while our curated shows often reflect the Wisconsin Academy's special interest in drawing connections between art and other disciplines. Many of our exhibits and events connect with themes explored through Wisconsin Academy Talks and Initiatives, as well as in the pages of Wisconsin People & Ideas.
Located on the third floor of Overture Center for the Arts in downtown Madison, the Watrous Gallery was founded in 2004. Its namesake is the artist and art historian James Watrous (1908-1999), one of the most influential and beloved figures in Wisconsin art. Watrous taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1934 to 1976, helping to shape the departments of art history and art and mentoring many students who went on to significant careers. He is known as "the father of the Elvehjem" for his pivotal role in establishing the Elvehjem Museum of Art (now the Chazen Museum of Art). Watrous also created many works of art in public spaces, including the Paul Bunyan Murals in the UW-Madison Memorial Union.
The James Watrous Gallery receives ongoing support from the Great Performance Fund at the Madison Community Foundation and the membership of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Programming is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.