The longest practicing branch of Wisconsin Union Directorate, and perhaps one of its most under-appreciated, is WUD Art.
While many see its exhibits around campus, few know the work that goes into planning them or the organization’s rich history in Madison.
The Badger Herald talked with the director, Yusi Liu, about WUD Art’s history, purpose and vision.
The following article was edited for style and clarity.
The Badger Herald: How do you look out for artists who you want to feature, and where do they come from?
Yusi Liu: Our art exhibition includes artwork from all around the world. We started a call for artists that we posted on different portals, so artists will see it and apply. We then pile up those submissions and select the things we think are important and challenging to the visual community in Madison.
This year, we have an associate director of installation who is in charge of contacting artists and bringing them in. He has a team, and together they put up the gallery, including lettering, lighting, artist statement printing and headstone setup.
BH: How long is that process?
YL: Ten days.
BH: How crazy is that?
YL: It’s so fun. Sometimes the form or nature of the art needs an alternate installation. It can be very challenging, yet interesting, to discuss what the best way to approach it is and how to present it.
BH: Is there any particular exhibition that stands out to you as being particularly interesting, difficult or enjoyable?
YL: Some of the ones that are created onsite during installation because that’s more when the artists install, and we offer assistance. It’s more creative.
It’s a great hands on experience for people who like art, especially for those who want to go further in museums. It’s like an internship, but here it gives you more independence.
For example, we had a gala two weeks ago that featured a four-day lineup. The first day we had a band booked for the opening. The second day we had a pop-up installation. The third day we had collages, and then the fourth day we had zine making.
BH: Are those types of events a recent effort of WUD Art?
YL: We’ve been doing it for three or four years. This year we changed the form of it — making a different event each day.
BH: Are those types of events something you want to do more of?
YL: Yes, I really want to do more sponsored events to continue this climate, the world, the art scene.
BH: Are art students mostly making up WUD Art, or are there other types of people as well?
YL: No, we invite everyone at UW. Our committee members, half of them, have academic fields that are not art-related at all. Some people are studying math, biology or chemistry. They help introduce new aspects of the submission and selection process.
We choose them because it’s a very challenging theme in art, and for people who make science pieces and really want to see that happen. They bring diversity to the art show.
BH: It seems like, from top to bottom, everyone brings something different to the table and to the team.
YL: Our committee’s goal is to bring people in from different fields on campus because you don’t have to be an art major to appreciate it.
BH: Are there any particular artists that you are excited to bring next semester and the year after?
YL: We usually do submissions, so we don’t choose them. But, I’ve got to say, I want to see something Trump-related.
BH: Tell me a bit more about yourself. Coming from Beijing, how did you get involved in WUD Art initially, and what inspired you to want to become the director?
YL: I’m studying art history. When I first decided to study art history, I started going to WUD meetings. In the first month, they gave me curating opportunities. After that, I started to really like the committee, so I applied for Associate Director of Marketing. From there I kept going.
BH: Have you guys worked at all with UW student artists?
YL: Yes. Every year in the spring semester we have a student art show. Next year, we will have our 89th student art show. It’s open to all undergraduates, and all students in Madison. You can be any major. We give awards, too. The award is given by a decision from the art committee members. The art we purchase from them at the art show will then go to the Wisconsin Union Art Collection.
BH: Do you think people have a clear idea of what WUD Art is, or do you think you guys are under the radar?
YL: Yes, but sometimes I feel like our name in the media gets misrepresented. Sometimes we get treated on the media like a venue, but we don’t rent our space. We decide what to put in the gallery for everything, and we have to pass everything by vote on our committee.
BH: Are you guys generally overwhelmed with the amount of submissions you get, or do you think you could be getting more?
YL: It really depends on the year. Last year we got around 100 pieces. The year before we got even more. We always invite a juror who chooses which art should be showed in the student art show.
BH: Is there anything else that you want to bring up or talk about before we conclude?
YL: When the second floor of Memorial Union opens, our oldest gallery in the Union will re-open, and that’s very exciting. We are actually the oldest gallery in the Wisconsin Union. Our gallery was opened in 1938 — the earliest art space in Madison and on campus.
We meet every Monday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and everyone is welcome to join.