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Celebrating 140 Years of the Wisconsin Academy

From the Director
Celebrating 140 Years of the Wisconsin Academy

The beginning of our 140th year as the Wisconsin Academy is a fine opportunity to look back-and look forward.

Throughout the pages of this magazine and in our Academy Evenings lectures of 2009 we highlighted Wisconsin's homegrown superstars. Whether it was stem cell researcher Ian Duncan, one of the world's leading scientists in the application of stem cell research to neurological diseases; historian John Gurda the acknowledged authority on Milwaukee history; microbiologist Jo Handlesman fostering the advancement of women in careers in microbiology; painter David Lenz's first- rank realist paintings, which are now part of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery permanent collection; featured fiction writer Lorrie Moore receiving great acclaim for her latest book A Gate at the Stairs in the pages of the New York Times; or gifted musician Karlos Moser, the man responsible for bringing opera to south central Wisconsin, we had no lack of outstanding stories to tell.

Many emerging artists were featured in these pages as the Wisconsin Academy joined the Wisconsin Arts Board in celebrating the work of its 2008 Visual Arts Fellows, and worked in collaboration with the Wisconsin Book Festival to select winners from our statewide poetry and short story contests. This print treasure is the only magazine in the state to feature articles by and about Wisconsin scientists, scholars, artists, writers, policymakers and others who serve as thought leaders in our state and who help shape its culture. Wisconsin People & Ideas, formerly the Wisconsin Academy Review, has been published quarterly since 1954. The magazine is available at over eighty libraries and as many bookstores across Wisconsin.

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors we have also been able to protect this quarterly magazine when other print publications have folded or moved completely online. Wisconsin People & Ideasis a direct benefit of membership in the Wisconsin Academy, delivered directly to your home. Please let editor Jason A. Smith know who and what you would like to know more about, so it can remain of the breadth, depth, and quality you expect. As one member describes it, "Wisconsin People and Ideas is Wisconsin's answer to the Smithsonian. It's a state treasure." Help us keep it that way by sharing the magazine with others. If your local library does not carry it, consider visiting our website to arrange a gift subscription for your community.

Looking ahead, we seek to continuously improve our electronic communications as well. This year we began a Facebook page, updated our e-newsletter with video content, improved our website, and video-streamed live Academy Evenings presentations to expand our community of creative thinkers.

One of the biggest contributions the Wisconsin Academy has made to the state in the last decade is its two Wisconsin Idea public policy projects. The Waters of Wisconsin project (WOW), completed in 2002, resulted not only in high-capacity well legislation to protect groundwater, it also created the connections that made possible the recent passage of the Great Lakes Conservation Compact. The Wisconsin Water Coalition, a group of seventeen organizations working together to advance clean water legislation, just this fall turned again to a WOW recommendation that Wisconsin create a Water Policy Task Force, which is likely to be part of a new bill.

The more recent 2006 Future of Farming and Rural Life project gave momentum to legislation regarding the protection of working lands which was passed as part of the most recent state budget. And, 25 copies of the report will be used this semester as a textbook in a course at UW-Madison.

The Wisconsin Academy's gallery of Wisconsin art and artists, named after tireless arts educator James Watrous, celebrated five years at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison this year. This attendance for the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration exhibition was about 3,500 this fall, including 12 student tour groups and collaborations with the Madison Children's Museum and area libraries. Aiding greatly in this and other James Watrous Gallery programming for the 2009-2010 season is a Federal Stimulus Grant through the National Endowment for the Arts, which helps to preserve arts jobs. For this we are thankful.

We have plans looking forward to travel at least one exhibition a year and, as resources allow, to capture video of artists' talks to share with a statewide audience. Coming to our gallery in February is a fabulous exploration of landscape through the painstaking and richly textured medium of fabric and embroidery. A generous donor has made possible the loan of a piece by La Crosse artist Terese Agnew currently held in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian. This will be followed by artwork from the 2010 Wisconsin Arts Board Visual Arts Fellows winners. This partnership with the Wisconsin Arts Board is a cornucopia of the state's best emerging artists and always a crowd pleaser.

So join us in celebrating 140 years of promoting, protecting, and preserving Wisconsin thought, culture, and nature. Best wishes for a Happy New Year for our state and nation.


Margaret Lewis was the executive director of the Wisconsin Academy from 2007 to 2011. For twelve years she served as Assistant, Associate and Acting Vice-President of University Relations for the University of Wisconsin System.

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1922 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53726
Phone: 608.733.6633


James Watrous Gallery 
3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.733.6633 x25