Last summer, Wisconsin School of Business artist-in-residence Angela Richardson (MFA ’15) made an unexpected discovery. In the sea of storage in Grainger Hall’s basement, she uncovered some buried treasure: it was the original color sketch for Ancient Commerce, a mosaic done by artist, art historian, and University of Wisconsin–Madison professor James Watrous.
The piece is significant in its own right—Watrous was an accomplished muralist and won numerous fellowships and awards for his work during the course of his career—but it’s also a symbol of the School’s decades-long commitment to artful engagement and a unifying element that bridges the past and the future. In 1955, WSB (formerly School of Commerce) commissioned Watrous to create two mosaic murals for its Commerce Building, now known as Ingraham Hall. The murals, Ancient Commerce and Contemporary Commerce, exemplify the melding of art and business and are still housed there today. In Grainger Hall, the rediscovered Ancient Commerce sketch and photographs of both pieces are now displayed at the entrance of WSB’s new donor-funded Learning Commons, part of the more than 200 pieces in the School’s permanent art collection.