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

Our Mission:

The Robert E. Gard Foundation is committed to fostering healthy communities through arts-based development.

Our Vision:

We envision communities in which all people discover and engage their individual and collective creativity, altering the face and the heart of America for the common good.

Our Values:

The Robert E. Gard-Wisconsin Idea Foundation celebrates and perpetuates the life, work and values of Robert E. Gard as a symbol of leadership in making creative communities a reality.


  • The arts spring from the commonplace and celebrate our essential humanity.
  • Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in arts and cultural experiences.
  • Each of us has the capacity to “alter the face and the heart of America.”
  • The arts have the power to ignite change.
  • The arts are an essential part of building healthy communities and meaningful lives.
  • The arts play a vital role in placemaking.


  • Ensure Robert E. Gard’s work is accessible.
  • Serve as catalyst, inquisitor and a convener.
  • Facilitate collaborations and partnerships.
  • Identify and promote best practices for arts-based community development.

The Foundation was formed in 1980 as an outgrowth of Robert Gard’s University of Wisconsin projects stemming from the 1940s. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 private, nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the arts. Unlike most foundations, the Robert E. Gard Foundation does not grant funds.