When I first was made aware of the exhibition, Birds in Art, almost twenty years ago, I had no idea of what was being talked about. At that point, I had been a professional artist for little over a year and was still finding my feet very wet and the back of my ears very pink as I tentatively made my way around in the wildlife art field that had become my chosen means of making a living.
Encouraged to submit a recently completed work which had birds as a subject matter for jury consideration for this, unknown to me, exhibition, I rather reluctantly sent in my slide and jury fee and thought little more about it. The assumption at that time was that this neophyte graphite artist would have a snowball's chance in . . . well you know where . . . of getting through the jury.
When the, as we all used to refer to it, BIG envelope arrived in the mail in mid May of 1991, I was astounded at my good fortune. It was then that thoughts turned to those who were encouraging me to physically go to the opening weekend of the exhibition, that I really began to panic. What could possibly make me believe that I had any right to be present for such a thing?
Long story short, I went, I saw, I did not conquer but I did realize rather rapidly just how important an event Birds in Art was. And the other thing that stood out about the three day whirl wind that the opening weekend became, was just how wonderfully warm and welcoming everyone at the Woodson Art Museum was. Over and above being surrounded by some of the most fantastic art and artists in the genre of wildlife art, I was blown away by the sincerity of the people of Wausau in their desire to make all of us feel like family, even someone like me who was a 'first-timer'.
And there you have it . . . one of the reasons that year after year, the competition for jury into Birds in Art becomes a major goal for so many artists all across the globe, not just those whose main focus is generally wildlife subject matter, but fine and respected artists in many other genres. 'It's the place, stupid!' you could say. It's the place indeed.
It is hard to find new and more descriptive words to talk about the feeling that overtakes, experiencing being a part of the opening of Birds in Art. I have been reading on various artist's blogs and facebook postings over this last week, their reactions to the festive events of last weekend; reading their heartfelt words of appreciation for all that is done for the artists and the feelings that we all come away with on Sunday morning as we board our various flights to head home that we are leaving friends, family and people of such good sort that we can't wait to come back.
In all my years of being a professional artist and even before then, and in all the grand art events and gallery 'dos' that I have been privileged to have been a part of, I have never had the feeling that so strongly inhabits me the minute I step foot into the Woodson Art Museum. Those people just know how to make an old friend feel rewelcomed and a new, first-timer feel as cared about and appreciated as those of us who have been honored to be a part of it all for many, many years.
Maybe it is something in the water, maybe it is something in the good old Midwestern ethic of welcoming a new neighbor, maybe it is something more personal? Whatever it is, that sincere ability to make someone feel extra special is a treasured commodity for sure and one that hardly exists any more in these days of 'me, me, me'.
I have commented here and in other places across the years that I always stand in amazement upon departure from Wausau at this time of year, at the seemingly effortless way in which the weekend flies by. And even when a slight ripple occurs during the three days of opening events that might otherwise create difficulty in another venue or location, all seems to even out within seconds and the fun just flows on in Wausau.
Cheers, Woodson Art Museum! Cheers, people of central Wisconsin! Cheers, to my peers who made the cut this time around! And Cheers to all of us who now begin the daunting task of thinking about wonderful, imaginative, appealing, and unique works of art for jury consideration in a few short months, so that we may all experience, once again, that very special feeling.