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Thursday, December 01, 2022
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Madison’s oldest art museum: Check out the Chazen!

The Chazen Museum of Art hosts 23,000 works of art and is the second largest collection of art in Wisconsin — and it’s completely free!

Home to a splendid array of paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures, the Chazen Museum of Art sits conveniently on University Avenue and only a block away from bustling State Street. This prime location allows University of Wisconsin-Madison students and residents of Madison the opportunity to visit the free museum whenever they want and recharge their creative energy.

The variety of art on display at the Chazen is remarkable. If you're looking for some creative inspiration or if you’re just looking to lift your spirits on a bad day, the Chazen has acted as a source of wonder to all those who have passed through its halls since it first opened in 1970.

The first time I stopped in at the Chazen, I was just passing by when I had a spare 30 minutes in between classes and thought I’d walk around the museum for a little while. I was blown away by the collection of work that the Chazen hosted. In fact, the Chazen is the largest museum art collection in the Big Ten. 

As the second-largest art collection in Wisconsin, the Chazen hosts a massive variety of work including  “approximately 23,000 works of art covering diverse historical periods, cultures and geographic locations, from ancient Greece, Western Europe and the Soviet Empire to Moghul India, 18th-century Japan and modern Africa.”

Canadian artist Amanda McCavour’s “Suspended Landscapes'' will be at the museum until September 11. “Suspended Landscapes” is a breathtakingly gorgeous work of embroidery depicting Wisconsin flora. McCavour sews into fabric that dissolves into water, essentially “drawing with thread.” This sewn flora sways due to the Chazen’s airflow, as if it truly was real plants being caressed gently by the wind. It is an unforgettable sight.

While you’re there, make sure to check out Kota Ezawa’s exhibition “City of Nature,” a video collage combining seventy nature scenes from different movies. This will also be on display at the museum until September 11. Using computer-assisted digital drawing and animation tools, Exawa recreates movie scenes and the result is an extremely captivating six minute video.

Another memorable exhibition is “Echoing Overseas,” a collection of 50 works representative of artistic and cultural exchanges across Asia. The sorts of objects on display inspired massive transformation in all sectors of life in Asia. “Echoing Overseas” perfectly captures the trajectory of art in Asia and around the world.

“Sifting and Reckoning: UW-Madison’s History of Exclusion and Resistance” will be a crucial exhibition demonstrating the discrimination and resistance that haunts the university’s past. Starting September 12 and ending December 30, 2022, “visitors will engage with objects from the UW Archives that are rarely displayed, including the Pipe of Peace, a ceremonial object used by white students in a popular mock Native ceremony; protest flyers created by students fighting against racism; buttons and athletic memorabilia; and yearbooks and photographs illustrating the culture of exclusion on campus.” 

The exhibition will feature opportunities for visitors to interact on a personal level and reflect on UW-Madison’s history. It is extremely critical that UW-Madison students come to this exhibition and reflect upon their school's horrific history, for awareness of the past is the first step to laying down the foundation for a more equitable future. 

The Chazen is a perfect place to go for all occasions — whether you are taking a new date out, hanging out with your friends, or looking for somewhere where you can spend some time immersed alone in beautiful art. 

For as many years you’ll be in Madison, the Chazen will be there for you. If you find yourself with free time while you’re here, there are few worse ways to spend a couple minutes or hours.

The museum is free and open 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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