Block Party to Celebrate Woodson Art Museum Winning Nation’s HIGHEST Museum Honor

Written by Amy Beck

You’re invited to join the fun of a National Medal Community Celebration on Thursday, August 3, 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum sculpture garden. Bring friends and family to this block party to share the spotlight of a prestigious award that reflects well on all.

The Woodson Art Museum received a 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service — the nation’s highest museum honor for service to the community — during a July 17 ceremony in Washington, D.C. This medal is YOUR medal, too; celebrate your role on the winning team!


The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is one of only two art museums among the five museums and five libraries named 2017 National Medal winners by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency supporting the nation’s approximately 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums — all of which were eligible.

Director Kathy Kelsey Foley and volunteer and award nominator Linda Haney represented the museum during the July 17 award ceremony at the National Archives in the nation’s capital.

The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum receives a 2017 National Medal during a July 17 ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Museum director Kathy Kelsey Foley (at right, holding award) and volunteer, nominator, and community member Linda Haney (at left, holding award) receive the medal from the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Dr. Kathyrn K. Matthew (left), and special guest, journalist, and author Cokie Roberts (right). Photo courtesy of Gediyon Kifle.

The award was presented by IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew during a ceremony that also featured special guest, journalist, and author Cokie Roberts and remarks by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero.

To receive “the highest recognition awarded by the federal government to museums and libraries for service to their communities,” an IMLS press release states, “selected institutions demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.”

The iconic work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher drew both rave reviews and record-setting crowds to the Woodson Art Museum for “M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion,” March 4 through May 28, 2017. Featuring more than 100 drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints, news of this exhibition spread far and wide thanks to a social media campaign fueled by a Wisconsin Department of Tourism Joint Effort Marketing grant. Photo courtesy of Richard Wunsch, Wausau.

According to Foley:

“Winning the National Medal is incredibly empowering; this makes us want to do more. We want everyone to know there is something at the Woodson Art Museum that will pique curiosity and engage; just give us a try.”

Elsewhere, snow is shoveled, thrown, and blown; at the Woodson Art Museum, it becomes ephemeral art. In 2017, this 8’-tall illuminated snow globe celebrated an exhibition of luminous Tiffany Studios leaded lampshades that glowed throughout the museum’s galleries. Each winter since 1990, Team USA has created snow sculpture at the museum to complement exhibitions. Wisconsin artists Mike Martino, Tom Queoff, and Mike Sponholtz have demonstrated their competitive skills around the world, winning a bronze medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and building a loyal fan base in Wausau, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Richard Wunsch, Wausau.

On May 15, the IMLS announced the winners, chosen because of their significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. The 10 winners were selected from 30 national finalists announced in March. Dr. Matthew said of the 10 award recipients:

“These institutions play a critical role as community catalysts and provide vital resources that drive economic development and foster community well-being.”

Among the museum’s most popular educational offerings are the Summer Art Sessions. Here, children ages 5–8, under the tutelage of Woodson Art Museum educators, designed and repurposed chairs, inspired by the summer 2016 exhibition “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design.” These young designers’ chairs were included in an exhibition showcasing their work at the Woodson Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Richard Wunsch, Wausau.

Foley credited the community’s and the region’s enthusiasm for embracing the full range of engagement opportunities and propelling staff continually to raise the bar. According to Foley:

“[The National Medal recognition] is among the highest forms of validation, not only for those of us who work in the museum field, but also that can be appreciated by community members at large. Being honored as a National Medal winner brings recognition to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum from a federal agency on a national stage. We are grateful beyond words.”

This 2017 National Medal recognition reflects the enthusiasm of all members and visitors.

Celebrating a focus on avian art, this site-specific sculpture of two 30’ sandhill cranes, titled “The Dance,” was created in June 2016 by Andy Moerlein and Donna Dodson, known as The Myth Makers. More than 500 saplings were harvested in the Wausau area and trimmed by museum staff and volunteers to enable The Myth Makers to construct “The Dance.” This photo of Andy and Donna on June 25, 2016, shows them proudly in front of their finished sculpture on the Woodson Art Museum campus. Photo courtesy of Richard Wunsch, Wausau.

Please join in the community celebration on August 3, for refreshments, the John Greiner Jazz Trio, an interactive comment wall, and photo opportunities for all to sport National Medal replicas and celebrate your role in this museum’s continued success!

Woodson Art Museum volunteers guide school groups through galleries featuring changing exhibitions, artwork from the collection, and the sculpture garden. Docents facilitate thoughtful dialogue through hands-on materials, storytelling, and interactive questions, and museum educators and visiting artists lead hands-on art making. Photo courtesy of Richard Wunsch, Wausau.

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StoryCorps_logoOctober 19–21 StoryCorps — a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans — will visit the Woodson Art Museum to document stories from our local community.

What’s your museum-related story?
How have experiences with others here impacted your life?

Let us know by emailing

Perhaps you’ll be selected to tell your tale during recorded conversations that will be preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress!

AmyBeckAmy Beck

Marketing & Communications Manager  |  Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

A former journalist, Amy has considered it a privilege to champion the Woodson Art Museum since 2010. Drawn by the natural, outdoor beauty of Wisconsin, Amy and her family moved to Wausau in 2007. After living in southwest Florida, upstate New York, and Iowa, Amy; her husband, Michael; two sons; and a daughter fell in love with Wisconsin during a family vacation and continue their quest to explore this state’s biking and hiking trails.  Email Amy Beck.

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