The Wisconsin Regional Art Program encourages visual artists throughout the state, and the results are on display in an exhibition at the University of Wisconsin Pyle Center. Running through Sept. 24, it showcases almost 200 nonprofessional artists with something to say.

'Cognac," by Colette Girard, winner of the Friends of Fred Behlendorf Award.

‘Cognac,” by Colette Girard, winner of the Friends of Fred Behlendorf Award. Above: ‘You Are Not Welcome,’ by Bill Mathis, winner of the Waukesha Creative Arts League Award.

The Wisconsin Regional Art Program is a long-running outreach initiative from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It holds statewide workshops and exhibitions, including an annual showcase in Madison for award-winning work.

'Abstractly Aquatic,' by Mary Ann Inman, winner of the Berk Award.

‘Abstractly Aquatic,’ by Mary Ann Inman, winner of the Berk Award.

The Pyle Center exhibition concludes with an annual conference on September 23-24, including an awards presentation. With help from WRAP’s nonprofit partner organization, the Wisconsin Regional Artists Association, selected artists will receive $4,300 to support their continued development. The awards are made possible by contributions from individuals and organizations; see here for information on making a donation.

The conference also includes speeches by Christine Manke, longtime coordinator for Wisconsin’s Percent for Art Program; and artist and guest judge Helen Klebesadel.

The Wisconsin Regional Art Program, inspired by the Wisconsin Idea, began as a UW-Madison initiative to engage rural Wisconsin in cultural activities. The American Regionalist artist John Steuart Curry, who served as the university’s artist-in-residence from 1936-46, became a mentor to adults in small communities who wanted to pursue art in their spare time.

Since then thousands have participated in the program, which has expanded to include urban areas. Some of them, inspired by their work in WRAP, went on to become professional artists, notably Nick Engelbert, Harry Nohr, and Lois Ireland Zwettler.

See the gallery below for more images from the Wisconsin Regional Art Program exhibition. For more information, contact Liese Pfeifer, 608-262-4911, liese.pfeifer@wisc.edu.