Cottage Interior

“Cottage Interior,” a watercolor piece from 1960 by Helen Sawyer, gift of Chris Clarkson.

RACINE — Two exhibits recently opened at the Racine Art Museum, 441 Main St., and will be on exhibit through June 4. They are “WPA Art from RAM’s Collection” and “Small Gifts from Big Donors.”

When RAM’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts first opened in 1941, it did not have a permanent collection. Any of the work on display in the galleries was borrowed from artists, collectors and other museums as short term loans. This changed, and Wustum became an institution with an art collection, when Sylvester Jerry, the museum’s first director, was able to obtain more than 260 works produced through the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1943. “WPA Art from RAM’s Collection” includes a selection of prints, watercolors, drawings, photographs, sculpture, murals, paintings and textiles generated through the WPA. This gift of work was visionary for Wustum and RAM in that it foreshadowed what would eventually become the collecting foci — works on paper and contemporary craft. While there were artists from a wide variety of backgrounds supported by the FAP/WPA, the subject matter of much of the visual art produced emphasized landscapes, social circumstances, architecture and people.

Thanks to the generous gifts of donors and supporters, the Racine Art Museum owns more than 9,000 pieces, crowning it as America’s largest collection of contemporary craft. “Small Gifts from Big Donors” focuses on the small-scale gifts of significant donors to RAM’s collection. The collectors honored in this exhibition series include Dale and Doug Anderson, Devra Breslow, Gail M. Brown, David and Jacqueline Charak, Camille and Alex Cook, Lloyd Cotsen, Robert W. Ebendorf and Aleta Braun, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Jane and Arthur Mason, Donna Moog, Donna Schneier and Leonard Goldberg, and Donald and Carol Wiiken. Throughout 2017, selections from their gifts will be featured, with four donors represented at a time.

The Racine Art Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, and $3 for seniors 63 and older and students. There is no charge for ages 11 and younger.

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