Earlier this week I wrote about my experience at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. While preparing for the blog I uncovered the rich history of this beautiful (and very accessible) museum. I want to share just a tasting of this history to encourage my readers to check out the wonderful exhibits this museum offers.
This Wausau museum was completed in September of 1976. The beautiful English Tudor home and four acres which now houses the museum was donated by John (1913-2008) and Alice W. Forester (1918-1994). Renovations in 1987, 1997 and 2012 expanded and improved this museum. To date, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is the only art museum in the region.
The museum is named after Leigh Yawkey Woodson, Alice Forester’s mother. Alice and her husband spearheaded the creation of the museum. Alice had two sisters, Nancy Leigh Woodson Spire (1917-1998) and Margaret Woodson Fisher (1920-1972), who were both heavily involved in the founding of the museum. Unfortunately, Margaret passed away before the museum opened. The family honored her memory with the sculpture garden, which I found to be a little slice of heaven.
Leigh Yawkey Woodson loved art and nature. She inherited these passions from her father, Cyrus Yawkey. Cyrus believed that people should develop a love for art and nature. This belief was represented in the first exhibit, the decorative arts collection. It continues on today with the annual Birds in Art Exhibit, as well as the numerous nature pieces that are found throughout the museum.
Leigh Yawkey was also known for her generosity in the Wausau area. The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum continues this legacy by offering free admission to all visitors. The museum is barrier free and they offer programs for the visually impaired, free of charge. They also offer a program called Spark, for those with early to mid-memory loss. There are many programs for families and children. The museum’s programs show an appreciation of the healing power of art. I think Leigh Yawkey Woodson would be ecstatic about how the museum enriches the lives of everyone in the community.
In 2016, the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum was recognized for the cultural contributions to the Wausau community. The museum was nominated for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the highest honor for museums and libraries across the nation. This award is given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum was one of only seven art museums to be selected as a finalist! Congratulations to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for this great accomplishment!
People who know me know I live for five things: Football, wrestling, video games, cooking shows and my first love, baseball. As I was doing the research for this blog, I discovered that Leigh Yawkey Woodson’s second cousin, Thomas Yawkey (1903-1976), was the owner of the famous Boston Red Sox! He bought the Boston Red Sox with a multimillion dollar inheritance from his Uncle William. He managed to turn the team from one of the worst franchises into one of the most popular within five years! What does this have to do with the art museum? Absolutely nothing! However, it does show another Yawkey who turned their passion into a legacy. Leigh Yawkey Woodson’s memory will continue on within the museum. Tom Yawkey’s memory is written in gold. Well, a gold plaque within the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I not only enjoyed my visit to the museum, but I equally enjoyed taking a virtual trip down memory lane.
Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’!!