Photo provided courtesy of the University of Wisconin-Madison Archives.

The Oral History Project

The Wisconsin Idea was a very big idea, indeed. The brainchild of Wisconsin Governor Robert M. LaFollette and the University of Wisconsin President Charles Van Hise in the early 20th century, the Wisconsin Idea affirmed the close link between the University and all of the citizens of the State. The latest ideas in all spheres of learning, from engineering to agriculture to the arts, would be made available to Wisconsin’s communities. And the University – through broadcasts on WHA Radio and Television, or correspondence courses, or classes and workshops everywhere in the state, or individual coaching – would help anyone in Wisconsin further their learning, interests and talents. The arts were deeply embedded in the University’s outreach programs, starting in the 19-teens; indeed, the first artist-in-residence in a public university was at the UW College of Agriculture in 1936. You can learn more about this fascinating history if you visit the Gard Foundation’s 2003 Symposium page, or visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Oral History website where you will find some 15 interviews with retired Arts Extension faculty members (Gard among them), their colleagues or their students, capturing their lives, work, and the rich history of Extension Arts.