Vibrant, colorful paintings greet visitors to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s new Alumni Welcome and Conference Center (AWCC).

These generous gifts from the Kohler Foundation Inc., which complement the building’s light-filled hallways, include works that were originally commissioned by BMO Financial in Chicago.

“The Four Sequences,” a series of four triptychs by Leon Berkowitz depict a study of Chicago’s light, while a collection of 12 paintings by Robert Swain examine color as a phenomenological experience with grids of hues becoming stronger from left to right.

Del Wilson, of Uihlein/Wilson Architects—the firm that designed the AWCC—said the building was created to serve as a “gateway” to campus with an open and airy feel that draws on the beauty of the location along the Fox River.

Wilson said the donated artwork also reflects the lightness and color of the environment.

Marsha Sehler, of Uihlein/Wilson, first suggested the Berkowitz pieces from the Kohler Foundation would work well in AWCC’s grand ballroom.

“Our firm creates buildings with such character and that character is enhanced by the art that goes in them,” she said. “I feel a little bit like a matchmaker, putting the art and the buildings that go happily together.”

Since the four Berkowitz pieces are so large and colorful they require a room with “a little volume and a little daylight to come alive.” Sehler also was happy to suggest that the AWCC could accommodate all four pieces, so they wouldn’t have to be split up.

Upon the suggestion from Wilson and Sehler, Chancellor Richard H. and Christie Wells visited with Terri Yoho of the Kohler Foundation to see the works.

Since the 1970s, preservation of art environments, folk architecture and collections by self-taught artists has been a major focus of the Kohler Foundation.

“We receive an almost constant flow of calls from people who want us to preserve artworks, whether it is the body of work of a family member or perhaps something they’ve seen, inherited or collected,” Yoho explained. “Finding the art is the easy part. Identifying the right steward with just the right space and the ability to care for the art is the difficult part. When we took on the Berkowitz and Swain pieces, all in desperate need of art conservation treatment after hanging in the BMO Financial executive dining area for many years, we thought it might be a challenge to find the right home.”

But a perfect spot was found.

“By working with Uihlen-Wilson Architects, we were able to place the works at UWO, and we feel we found the perfect space for these amazing and newly preserved pieces of art,” Yoho said.  “They will be seen daily by an appreciative audience and well cared for into the future. This is what it is all about!”


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