Douglas RosenbergPhoto of the VAC Registration sign in the breezeway of the Humanities Building.On Friday, April 12, more than 300 Wisconsin high school artists traveled to UW-Madison and the Art Department for the 2019 Visual Arts Classic (VAC), a state-wide art competition sponsored by the Wisconsin Art Education Association and the UW-Madison Art Department. Hosted by our Art Education Associate Faculty Dr. Mary Hoefferle, this one-of-a-kind opportunity in the United States is a jam-packed, fast-paced art event, providing art-focused high school students an opportunity to share their artistic ideas beyond their own communities, experience the UW-Madison campus, and envision a future as college art and design students.

Photo of a VAC student working on a project.The VAC features twelve studio categories related to an annually changing theme. This year’s theme was Back to Basics: Art & Simplicity, where students studied selected artists Esther Bubley, Honoré Daumier, Shoji Hamada, Huichol Art, Kathe Kollwitz, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Grandma Moses, Yasujiro Ozu, Harriet Powers, Georges Seurat, and digital photographer John Wilhelm.

Student artwork is propped along the wall in the hallway for judging.During the regional Quiz Bowl competitions, they created long-term projects based on sets of these artists, with the winners advancing to the state level here on campus where their projects were critiqued by professors, artists, and art educators.

Photo of a VAC student working on a drawing.While on campus for the event, the students created artwork in response to new prompts in the “on-site” competitions. School teams also competed in a Critical Thinking project and the Art History Quiz Bowl, Photo of a VAC student working on a ceramic sculpture.related to the selected artists and theme.

Through their preparation for and participation in the VAC, students conducted in-depth research; worked through ideas in written form and sketches until they arrive at a solution; developed studio skills; analyzed and critiqued works of art; managed time/meet deadlines; and learned self-motivation and how to collaborate with peers. Photo of a VAC student looking at photography artwork in the Humanities building 6th Floor hallway. All the skills we expect to build as the foundation for a solid arts practice.

With so many young artists filling the classes of the Art Department, the excitement and creativity is tangible; it’s the hallmark of the talent and energy, the forces and ideation that happens when artists come together, which I’m thinking about here today on Earth Day.

Douglas Rosenberg
Chair, UW-Madison Art Department