Navigating Campus: Galleries at UW–Madison

If you’re at all familiar with the arts scene on the UW-Madison campus, you’ve probably heard of the Chazen Museum of Art and the Art Lofts, or walked past the gallery spaces in either Memorial Union or Union South. And while these are arguably the most heavily trafficked galleries on campus, there are an astounding 30+ gallery spaces spread across campus filled with amazing 2D, 3D, and multimedia art.

“A college campus that invests in art reflects that the institution is well-rounded and places value on culture,” said Amanda Kron, the Art Director at UW Hospital. “Art connects the campus to local and international artists, inspires, and educates both students and community members. Our community is very lucky to have a world-class art museum, multiple galleries, Tandem Press, and an excellent art program at UW-Madison.”

Hellen Louise Allen Textile Collection
School of Human Ecology, Nancy Nicholas Hall: Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, housed in the School of Human Ecology, has grown over time from a 4,000 piece gift to a compilation of over 13,000 objects. The collection is used informationally by students and researchers. Its mission is to serve as not only informational, but on being full of unique, globally-engaged pieces that explore the very thing the collection’s namesake believed in – textiles as carriers of diverse human culture. The brand new Lynn K. Mecklenburg Textile Gallery is a permanent space dedicated to year-round displays of the collection. The space opens on Sunday, January 27.

While spaces such as the Textile Gallery and the Chazen feature an abundance of professional art, many smaller gallery spaces focus on both undergraduate and graduate student art. In fact, 25 of these spaces accept submissions, some of which also feature work by artists in the community. Works generally rotate through these spaces on anywhere from a two week to six-month basis, and many galleries are constantly accepting submissions for the next display cycle.

“We are one of a growing number of hospitals in the country that have an art program,” said Kron. “Our program has been in place since the late 1970s. Over the past few decades, UW Health has invested in thousands of pieces of original works of art and prints. Students may also display their own artwork here as part of the exhibit program.”

Class of 1973 Art Gallery
Red Gym: Class of 1973 Art Gallery.

Though more heavily trafficked, what many people don’t know about Union gallery spaces is that all programming is done by students. Everything you see in these spaces is proposed, decided, curated and maintained by students on the Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee. The Chazen also engages with students on campus to create a more inclusive, appealing museum experience.

“The Chazen Student Ambassadors, a student organization, focuses on creating free programming to promote the Chazen Museum of Art amongst students and the Madison community,” said president of the Chazen Student Ambassadors and WUD Art Director Brandon Phouybanhdyt. “We try to do different programs and events that reflect our own interests as members while appealing to the community.”

Carbone Center Waiting Room
Carbone Center Waiting Room. Artist: Colleen Darby. Exhibition title: “LandEscapes”

So, next time you’re walking to class or visiting a UW building, take some time to scan the walls. There’s a good chance you’ll run into some amazing pieces of art.

For more information on gallery spaces around campus, visit our Gallery Guide at