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Art museum galleries to be named for donor Karen Johnson Boyd

Art museum galleries to be named for donor Karen Johnson Boyd

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RACINE -- There was never a doubt in the minds of Wustum Museum of Fine Arts officials that Karen Johnson Boyd had left her imprint on the institution.

Now, everyone who knows of Racine Art Museum will know it too.

Wustum officials announced Monday that Boyd's name will be attached to the future art museum now under construction at 441 Main St. Below the name Racine Art Museum will be the words, "Karen Johnson Boyd Galleries."

In other words, the museum's gallery function is being named in honor of Boyd, whose donations helped launch Wustum's stellar collection of craft art. Boyd had been a regular donor of art to the museum's permanent collection throughout her adult life.

However, her 1991 gift of a 200-piece contemporary craft collection "was the first step in placing this Midwestern art museum on the national map," Wustum officials stated.

"Her gift created concentrations in contemporary ceramics, fibers, glass and metals that were of national importance, forming the nucleus of what is now considered one of the four finest contemporary craft collections in the United States," Wustum reports. The collection now includes more than 3,000 objects.

Until Boyd's gift, the 60-year-old Wustum had a "broad, undefined collection," Wustum Board President John Shannon said during the presentation at Helen & Craig's Bistro. "As a local art museum … we couldn't collect everything. We needed to have a focus." Boyd's gift provided that.

"It brought attention to the museum at a time when we were not known for this," said Wustum Executive Director Bruce Pepich.

"As a donor, (Boyd) has generosity, but she also has vision," he said. "She was wise enough to realize when she did this it would position us for more donations of this kind. People suddenly took us very seriously as a museum."

Wustum now has the fourth-largest U.S. collection of craft art, he said, and added, "We think this (new) building will help boost up the list."

Boyd has also been honorary fund-raising campaign leader for the $9.5 million Racine Art Museum. That campaign now stands at about $8.5 million.

Boyd, sister of Samuel C. "Sam" Johnson, modestly accepted the honor with a "mixture of gratitude and embarrassment," saying that others have worked harder to create the Racine Art Museum.

"I will do my best to serve this new museum in my remaining years," she said.

Olaf Brauner, Boyd's grandfather, was head of the Cornell University Art Department and gave Boyd her first real exposure to art. "He taught me how to look at art," she said.

Boyd would go on to become owner and president of Perimeter Gallery in Chicago and New York. She has been an avid supporter of craft artists since the 1960s, has served as a trustee of the American Craft Council and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from New York City's American Craft Museum.

Here, Boyd has been on the Racine Community Foundation Board of Directors, was chairwoman of the Racine United Arts Fund for four years, was honored as a YWCA Woman of Distinction in the Arts and has received the Governor's Award in Support of the Arts.

Boyd is married to William Boyd, president emeritus of the Johnson Foundation and former president of the University of Oregon.


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