The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau has won the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services gives its National Medal each year to five museums and five libraries. All of the nation’s 35,000 museums and 123,000 libraries are eligible to compete.
Museum director Kathy Kelsey Foley credits the Woodson Art Museum’s "barrier-free commitment and philosophy" for the award.
"The visionary, forward thinking of our founders, more than 45 years ago, envisioned an art museum in north central Wisconsin that would be committed to free admission, that there would be no barriers for anyone to visit," she said.
Kelsey Foley said the museum is not just handicapped accessible, but conducts art appreciation programs for young people, people with memory loss and the blind.
The Woodson Art Museum is best known for "Birds in Art," an annual exhibition with a conservation ethic and a global reach.
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"The exhibition has shown the work of over 1,000 contemporary artists from around the world. Easily 500 have visited here," said Kelsey Foley. "That's why Birds in Art resonates, because of Aldo Leopold and the land ethic, and the respect that we have here in Wisconsin for the environment and conservation."
Kathryn K. Matthew, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, praised the 10 National Medal winners.
"These institutions play a critical role as community catalysts and provide vital resources that drive economic development, foster community well-being and spark neighborhood revitalization," she said in a news release.
As part of National Medal honor, representatives of StoryCorps — the national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans — will visit the Woodson Art Museum this fall to document stories from the greater Wausau community.
Editor’s note: The Woodson Art Museum is a frequent business sponsor of Wisconsin Public Radio.