When the Waunakee Tribune reported on the upcoming 2020 Wisconsin Regional Art Program (WRAP) a year ago in March, no one knew the COVID-19 pandemic would shut down shops, schools, public buildings and offices just a week or so later.

Now, as our world opens up again, WRAP is back, but in a slightly different format to offer virtual options.

WRAP offers art exhibitions in communities like Waunakee throughout state mainly for students, non-professionals and new and emerging artists to show their work. From May 1-15, those works will be on display at the Waunakee Public Library, and the participants will have their work critiqued by Joyce Bromley, curator of Gallery 800 on University Bay Drive in Madison. Bromley is also a docent at the Chazen Museum. She will judge the pieces, choosing those to be entered into a state exhibit later in Wausau.

According to Waunakee Administrative Assistant Kylie West, who staffs the Create Waunakee committee, artists can also sell the work on exhibit.

On the final day of the event, a community workshop will be offered and led by Emily Balsley, a Madison-based illustrator and mural artist. Balsley will create a 9-foot by 14-foot unpainted canvas to teach the technique.

“The participants are all going to get a chance to help paint this canvas mural. And the canvas mural is being created specifically for our village. It’s going to feature aspects of our community – the bridges, the goats, the village’s name,” West said.

The mural can then be displayed as a permanent installation or as a backdrop for events, West said.

People interested in mural painting can also participate either in person at the library or virtually from home. Kits of smaller canvases and supplies will be available to order. They will also be able to ask questions.

“That’s a neat option, without COVID, I don’t think we would have offered,” West said.

Also on May 15, the critique and award program will be held at 1 p.m. and can be viewed virtually or in person.

Exhibitors are currently signing up for the event to be held at the library’s History Hall.

“Currently we’ve got pieces submitted going from 8-by-10-inch watercolor prints all the way to a 4-foot-by-5-foot paintings that people have submitted,” West said.

Ceramic vases have also been entered.

“So really, we’re looking for anything. When we promote this, it seems like it’s mostly painting but it really isn’t,” she added.

WRAP began in 1936 when the UW-Madison School of Agriculture began “a bold social experiment: using the arts to expand the cultural growth and knowledge of Wisconsin,” according to a history on the program’s website. John Steuart Curry a well-known landscape painter, was hired to become the university’s first artist-in-residence and become a mentor for artists in the program. Curry, along with artists Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, were a trio of regional artists.

One of the first artists Curry discovered while at the UW was Lois Ireland Zwettler, who grew up in Waunakee. At the age of 14, she began working under Curry’s mentorship as he was forming what was then the Wisconsin Rural Art Program. She went on to study art at UW-Madison and then in New York. Sales of her paintings allowed her travel through Europe.

WRAP today is administered by the Association of Wisconsin Artists.

Organizers of Waunakee’s WRAP had hoped to have Zwettler return to her hometown for the 2020 event; she died in at the end of December of COVID-19 at age 92.

This year’s event is dedicated to Zwettler, including a virtual artist’s reception May 7 her sons plan to attend.

The deadline for artists to register to exhibit their work for the Waunakee WRAP is April 28. Community members who wish to participate in the community workshop can register until May 12.

Artists can register online at Waunakee.com/WaunakeeWRAP. To register for the in-person community workshop, visit www.waunakee.com/WRAPWorkshop.

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