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72 Rays

72 Rays
Editor's Notes

A lot of folks have asked me what the wheel spoke-like emblem on our Wisconsin Academy logo and Wisconsin People & Ideas masthead represents. For those of you who don’t know, the seventy-two orange rays represent the seventy-two counties of our fine state. Their arrangement into a circle reflects our mission of connecting these counties and engaging Wisconsin’s citizens in a dialog about how to make our state better.

While better may seem an arbitrary term, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what it means. The Wisconsin Academy helps make our state better by sharing the best of Wisconsin thought and culture in the pages of this magazine, offering solutions to the challenges of our times at our Academy Evenings talks, and highlighting
ground-breaking Wisconsin art and artists at our James Watrous Gallery.

Too, we annually elect five Wisconsin Academy Fellows, individuals who have made outstanding contributions to their fields and to the state (see page 4 for more info on the Fellows). In short, these are folks who have spent their entire lives making our state better.

Wisconsin Academy members know how to make the state a better place for everyone, too. They are the business and civic leaders, teachers, artists, writers, and scientists whose ideas and actions make our state and world a better place to live. Wisconsin Academy members participate in our programs and support our organization with their membership dues and contributions because they want to elevate everyone in the state (as opposed to just elevating a certain group) by helping our programs reach even more citizens.

With your support, Wisconsin might yet get better.

As an independent nonprofit, the Wisconsin Academy faces many challenges to reaching citizens from all over the state. We’re big on ideas, but we don’t always have the resources to take those ideas to every city and town in Wisconsin. Even though we like sharing ideas and stake a claim to the Wisconsin Idea—the noble notion (in the words of Charles Van Hise) that we “shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every family in the state”—we aren’t affiliated with the University Wisconsin, or for that matter the State of Wisconsin. We might receive UW funding for an Academy Evenings talk here or Wisconsin Arts Board grant for a James Watrous art exhibition there, but we are totally independent when it comes to funding.

I mention this not as a complaint, but rather to illustrate a point: Because we are independently funded, we are free to do or say as we please. It’s kind of liberating to consider, isn’t it? And, as a Wisconsin Academy member you have a voice in perhaps one of the last pundit-free zones, a space where you can find objective information and reasoned commentary by experts you can trust.

Indeed, many Wisconsin Academy members have expressed a desire to discuss the issues that affect our state and to have more of a voice in Wisconsin Academy affairs. Too, statewide members want to see more art from our gallery, to hear more talks—and on more diverse subjects—by Wisconsin’s experts, to explore beyond the printed page the people and ideas found in our magazine.

We hear you.

As Margaret mentioned in her editorial from the previous issue, we are working on an expansive new web site with a whole host of interactive tools for exploring and sharing the best Wisconsin thought and culture. Look for it in early November.

In the spirit of our Wisconsin Academy logo we’ve named our new Vimeo video channel 72 Rays. This channel will simultaneously provide hosting services for our web site and share videos of Wisconsinites with the rest of the world. Our 72 Rays channel will feature not only Academy Evenings talks but also interviews with Wisconsin Academy Fellows and Watrous Gallery artists, as well as readings by Wisconsin poets and writers.

I encourage you to visit vimeo.com/channels/72rays for a sneak peek as we begin to add more videos over the next few weeks. Or drop by our expanded new web site at wisconsinacademy.org after November 15 and add your voice to the conversation.

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From 2008 to 2021 Jason A. Smith was the associate director of the Wisconsin Academy and editor of its quarterly magazine of Wisconsin thought and culture, Wisconsin People & Ideas.

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Phone: 608.733.6633


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3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
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Phone: 608.733.6633 x25