Madison’s Best Contemporary Art Galleries and Museums
Sitting on the banks of the Yahara River, Madison is Wisconsin’s cultural hotbed,with numerous art galleries, museums and exhibition spaces dotted around the city. Nationally acclaimed events such as the annual Art Fair on the Square have contributed to Madison’s solid reputation in the world of arts and crafts, but it’s the everyday exhibitions and local efforts that really make the city stand out. Our cultural guide explores ten of the best contemporary art galleries and museums in Madison.
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA) has been open since 1901 and in that time has found itself at the forefront of modern art. Providing free exhibitions for locals and visitors alike the museum features highly regarded and esteemed contemporary artists from across the globe. Workshops and lectures are put on throughout the year and specific nights such as Rooftop Cinemahave seen them expand into other mediums of contemporary art other than just static installations. Opening a new facility in 2006 the MMoCA is a fully equipped, modern facility for the preservation and presentation of contemporary art.
A carefully curated and put together collection of art from the diverse local art scene as well as intriguing pieces from around the world sees the Fanny Garver Gallery lauded as one of the most exciting and individualistic galleries in the Madison area. With personable staff holding an extensive knowledge of all the pieces on display, from the globally renowned artists right through to the lesser known contributors to the gallery, the interest permeates right through all genres on display. Glass, jewelry, traditional, contemporary, paintings, prints, ceramics and sculptures all mingle together for perusal in a gallery that has been promoting art work for over 40 years.
Carrying work exclusively from Wisconsin based artists; the Hatch Art House takes championing local art to its core. Opening in 2010 the gallery provides a platform for local artists to launch themselves and exhibit their works in a commercial environment. With a new featured artist every month and themed art shows the Hatch Art House brings forth an array of new and exciting ideas from the Wisconsin community to the Wisconsin community. An eclectic mish-mash of all forms of art jostle for position in the homely interior with ceramics, jewellery, pottery, paintings and even papier mache all on display.
Part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, the James Watrous Gallery has a strong focus on work produced and owned by Wisconsin residents and strongly promotes the craft history of the region. It also puts on exhibitions with the explicit aim of trying to bridge the gap between the arts, sciences and humanities thus creating a space to inform and entertain. Named after an influential figure in the Wisconsin art world, who was both a renowned artist and art historian, the James Watrous Gallery tries to maintain this legacy of the region producing great and exciting contemporary art works by inviting local artists to contact them about showcasing their works.
A stained glass studio that holds classes and exhibitions, The Vinery has developed over the 38 years it has been around from a solely commercial venture into something with much more intent. Not just producing stained glass products, it also has expanded into beading and mosaics and has galleries for its customer’s works that they produce along with one for the work done by their staff of artists and craftspeople. The teaching studio offers the chance to try out this rare and complex craft in order to inspire a passion for the arts in a new generation of artists and crafts people.
Wetiko, Liana Buszka, Litograph | Courtesy Yellow Rose Gallery
A metal-art gallery that sees grand twisting sculptures next to intricately detailed jewelry pieces, Hyart is born from owner Hiroko Yamada’s childhood memories of learning traditional Japanese art, many years working in design and architecture and her time as a student learning metalsmithing at the University of Wisconsin. With featured artists who not only specialize in metal but also wood, ceramics, card, photography, glass and fibre, Hyart is an outlet for creative talent in a chic, modern setting that sees contemporary art and craftsmanship combined with its unique displays.
A recent addition to the Madison art scene, Yellow Rose Gallery was opened this year by artist, activist, photographer and filmmaker Miles Kristan. A real grassroots project, the Yellow Rose Gallery has lower than average exhibitors fees and studio space to rent for any genre of artists in order to encourage a younger, more vibrant crowd to the art scene. Showcasing sculpture, video installations and 3D art provides a much more vivid and involved interaction with the art than other galleries may do and with the gallery still in its infancy it is an exciting prospect to see it develop and grow.
Predominantly a clay studio where people can learn the skill of pottery or hone their art, Higher Fire Clay Studio has a gallery that shows off the range of intricate and delicate pieces that come out of the studio. Pottery and ceramic art are the staple here with many practical pieces as well as artistic ones on view and all are for sale. Attached to an open studio the Higher Fire Clay Studio helps create and promote the artistic aspirations of the Madison community it attracts with classes to serve all age ranges and skills.