Culture 001

Published on January 6th, 2013 | by Charu Suri


Indoor Bird Watching at the Woodson Art Museum

“What could Wausau possibly have?” I thought, much like a Grinch, before I boarded the plane en route to the Central Wisconsin Airport. And like the Grinch, I ended up having a massive change of heart.

There I was, two months pregnant, and on my first “ski” trip (technically speaking, I was not allowed to ski at all, so I ventured to do a bit of snow shoeing). My final destination–Wausau, Wisconsin– was not a place I would have willingly picked out from a map to venture to: I am more a lover of the idea of pleasant beaches and frothy surf with water at room temperature than I am of skiing and sledding in the thick of winter.

Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau, Wisconsin

Rib Mountain State Park

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The Woodson Art Museum

But I decided to take the trip up North, for the sake of travel. After all, sitting in a chalet by a twinkling fire and sipping hot cocoa does not really make for a good story.

Wausau is a charming area in Central Wisconsin which has one of the oldest geological formations on the planet. That aspect of the area alone is worthy of a trip: Rib Mountain State Park is a billion year old hill that offers nothing short of spectacular views of the area (if you’re not smitten with the views during the day, try your hand at downhill skiing at night—you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how white the slopes can be at night in dreamy contrast to Downtown Wausau’s own lights in the distance as you swoosh down the slope).

Apart from Rib Mountain State Park, Granite Peak (which offers a 700 foot drop ski slope and tons of benevolent slopes to encourage rookie skiers) and the Narnia-like Nine Mile Forest (where I had my first experience snow shoeing) Wausau is where I would willingly venture again to get my fix of art.

Yes, art.

The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum is an updated 1931 English Tudor period building which has a touch of Cotswald-like charm. It houses a permanent collection of the finest avian art in the world. A truly magical place, its quiet and elegant rooms are filled with statues of snowy owls and paintings of egrets. Little wonder that it’s been dubbed “the best place in the world for indoor bird watching.”

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From paintings of rough-winged swallows to Starry Owlet-Nightjars, the Woodson Art Museum is truly a place where you can gaze at miniature hummingbirds, sip coffee and stare at a painting of a red-tailed hawk by Stephen C. Quinn, or look at the polished Australian Wood Duck by sculptor Lucinda Kate McEachern. Its popularity and extensive collection warranted the addition of two-story gallery spaces.

And that’s not all: the Museum is family friendly too!

The Museum offers art-related programs throughout the year, and its “Education Resource Center” is a bit like Epcot Center for kids, with an emphasis on hands-on learning to slake kids’ ephemeral curiosity. The idea is to explore sensory experiences (all art related) so everyone from toddlers to teenagers can paint, sculpt, and examine the collection’s current offerings.

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Apart from the Frick Collection in New York City, I’ve yet to see a more intimate gem like the Woodson Art Museum. It’s where the simple yet graceful painting of a Sandhill crane (Emerald Mantle by Michael Todoroff) will make you appreciate the beauty of Nature. It’s where pastels of dunes will make you appreciate the nuances of the surrounding landscape, and make you appreciate the vivid outdoor colors even more.

Its latest Birds in Art series aims to recognize contemporary artists: both two and three dimensional work is considered. It’s wonderful to see a Museum aim to promote artists who are in much need of publicity, by giving them a Master Wildlife Artist Award. And that’s not all: each year, the Museum selects 60 works from the Birds in Art to be part of an international or national tour, thereby widening the audience reach of the painter.

The Museum recently procured 43 Owen Gromme paintings, who is widely recognized as being one of Wisconsin landscape’s finest painters, capturing the essence of the landscape’s beauty. He is known as the “dean of U.S. wildlife artists.”

After my visit to the Museum, I left spellbound and eager to brush up on my art history. I never once thought of skiing or snow shoeing.

The Woodson Art Museum is located at 700 North Twelfth Street, Franklin and 12th Streets, Wausau, WI 54403. The Museum is offering a six-day tour of Seattle and Tacoma’s Cultural Highlights, including tours of the Chihuly Garden and Glass at Seattle Center,three Seattle art museums, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Olympic Sculpture Park, galleries and markets, the Space Needle, and studio visits with two “Birds in Art” artists. Email to reserve a spot, or for more information.


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14 Responses to Indoor Bird Watching at the Woodson Art Museum

  1. Jenna says:

    That photo of the tree-lined snowy road is gorgeous. A good friend of mine was born in Wausau, but I honestly have barely been to Wisconsin even though I lived in Minnesota for a while. I love that the museum is kid-friendly and encourages them to get creative.

  2. Lane says:

    Great images. Sometimes the best things come from the most unexpected places.

  3. Alice says:

    Bird watching indoors during the winter haha who would have thought! Great post!

  4. Nice! I love the bird sculptures. I just bought a wood duck made by a craftsman in Cajun Country. Every household should have at least one :)

  5. Paul Mathis says:

    Great story, Charu! It was a pleasure sharing our community with you. Glad you enjoyed your visit.


  6. Kathy Foley says:

    Thanks, Charu, for the fabulously enthusiastic reflections on your visit to the Woodson Art Museum. Warm fuzzies for a bitter-cold winter day! We are greatly appreciative. Hurry back to Wausau and to the Woodson Art Museum and please do continue to spread the word about the adventures that await visitors to the Woodson Art Museum!

  7. Dot H says:

    I love the Woodson Museum and their Birds in Art exhibit each year, and I love Wausau (guess it’s cause I went to two years of one room grade school and to high school there and it’s where my dad is buried) and I loved your post! It made me long to take a trip back there and visit relatives, the museum, and of course Rib Mountain. Thanks for writing it.

    • Charu Suri says:

      Ah, thank you SO much for commenting on this. It’s a real special place and I cannot tell you how surprised I was to see this museum in Wausau. And I would love to come for the Birds in Art Exhibit…it magnifies what we take for granted each day.

  8. Oh my goodness, a whole museum about bird art! I wish I had known about this when we zoomed through Wisconsin, would have made a pitstop. Lovely building, too.

  9. What a fascinating museum! As you know, I am a big fan of all things avian and that owl is positively stunning. No wonder it won! Thank you for introducing me to another new museum!

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