June 2013

Madison's museums and galleries offer intriguing escapes from the boardroom

by Zachary Chouteau

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As a progressive college town bolstered by a strong creative arts landscape, it’s not surprising that Madison, Wis., is home to a number of top-notch museums and galleries. What might surprise some planners and attendees, however, is the depth and diversity of these offerings.

“We are very appreciative of the vast array of facilities that we have here in Madison,” says Judy Frankel, public relations and communications manager for Visit Madison. “There is something very wonderful about hosting a meeting in an art museum or gallery that lends an amazing atmosphere to the event.”

Here is a closer look at some of the city’s best museums and galleries, and top experiences and settings for planners to ponder at each.

The Chazen Museum of Art
Located on the handsome campus of the University of Wisconsin, the Chazen is a gleaming modern wonder bursting with priceless works from countless mediums, countries and artists.

“The Chazen has one of the most unique university collections in the country,” says Russell Panczenko, director of the museum. “Admission is free, and we offer docent-led group tours of temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection to suit a wide range of interests.”

Among the legendary names displaying works are Joan Miro, Auguste Rodin, Thomas Gainsborough, Pablo Picasso and Grandma Moses, but the permanent collection of more than 20,000 works truly does span all continents and eras. Frequently changing exhibitions are also intriguing, and the museum’s artwork is bolstered by free educational offerings ranging from lectures and films to artist talks and receptions.

From September through mid-May, the Chazen even presents free chamber music concerts featuring local performers at an event known as Sunday Afternoon Live from the Chazen.

Absolutely Art
A combination funky shop, cool art gallery and lively community center, Absolutely Art shows off creations from about 200 local artists at its Eastside location. Perfect for a casual group stop, the artsy enclave offers the chance for attendees to purchase a creative keepsake or just take in the constantly changing art on display.

The highly sustainable venue recycles art supplies and even has one of its entrances along a popular bike path. Groups can enjoy a funky sculpture garden with a cozy seating area and occasionally take in a local artist creating an on-site piece, such as a vibrant mural recently added to an exterior wall.

Another promising possibility is a welcoming reception held on the first Friday evening of each month to tout the featured artist for the month.

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