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Meghan Wagner, an arts management and studio art major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, had an opportunity to soar this summer.
As an intern at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, the Appleton native had access to Woodson’s entire private collection while planning a new show for the Edna Carlsten Art Gallery at the university.
Finding pieces for the exhibit was daunting, not only because she was a first-time curator but because the paintings had to be of five specific types of ducks. Her audience would include some of the best wildlife artists in the country.
The exhibit will be one facet of the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Contest, hosted at UW-Stevens Point Sept. 15-16. The Duck Stamp is a required purchase for waterfowl hunters as well as a valued collector’s item, and it raises funds to help protect 6.5 million acres of wetlands in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Those entering the contest must submit a work featuring a harlequin, gadwall, mallard, blue-winged teal or cinnamon teal duck, all of which Wagner has become very familiar with while curating “The Eligible Five: Species selected for the Federal Duck Contest.”
“It was a new experience and a great challenge,” Wagner said. “I had worked in museums before but the Leigh Yawkey Woodson was the largest and most well-known. Having their entire collection at my disposal was amazing.”
Wagner first searched the museum’s collection, known for its annual “Birds in Art” exhibit, for those featuring the five species. She narrowed the choices to 90, then to about 40 works. She chose pieces featuring a variety of artists known locally to internationally, and included decoy and live subjects. Five of the chosen pieces feature artists who have won the Federal Duck Stamp Contest in the past.
She also designed and prepared the Carlsten gallery, located in the Noel Fine Arts Center. She framed some of the pieces, will bring the collection to the university for the display, then return the art to the Woodson when the exhibit ends.
Initially, Wagner studied studio art at UW-Stevens Point, but found a love for the business side of creativity while serving an internship at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah. Adding an arts management major at UW-Stevens Point gives her the business knowledge she needs, from financing and marketing to management and grant writing.
The internship earns one credit toward her degree, and is one of three required by the arts management program.
“My arts management classes definitely prepared me for this internship and curating work,” Wagner said. Her assignments have led her to meet various members of the art community and make connections. Her adviser, arts management coordinator Jim O’Connell, has helped with those connections as well. After she interned at the Carlsten gallery last spring, he suggested her to Jane Weinke, curator of collections at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.
“Meghan’s passion for museum work, her attention to detail and experience as a fine artist herself made her a perfect match for this project,” said O’Connell. “This is the kind of rich practical experience the arts management internships are meant to provide for our students — building a resume, expanding a network, and providing tangible benefit to our community.”
Wagner is on track to have five internship experiences before she graduates in December 2018, including one full-time semester-long position.
“I really have enjoyed the curating, and I see myself doing this kind of work in the future,” Wagner said. “The required internships for the arts management major help students get hired. The program is built to help you succeed.”
Her Duck Stamp exhibit is at the Edna Carlsten Art Gallery Aug. 28-Sept. 24, with a reception Thursday, Sept. 7, from 4-7 p.m. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Noel Fine Arts Center and is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.
To view the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Contest entries, visit the Noel Fine Arts Center Sept. 15-16. For more information about the contest and activities at UW-Stevens Point, see www.uwsp.edu/cnr/Pages/Federal-Duck-Stamp-Contest.aspx.