The Worcester Art Museum (WAM) has a reputation for broadening the definition of what constitutes art. In 1904, the museum was the first to exhibit photography as fine art. In 1927, it pioneered the acquisition, shipment, and installation of a medieval building – the twelfth-century French Chapter in the museum’s Renassiance Court – paving the way for the Cloisters in New York to follow suit. So it is no surprise that the same institution should welcome POW! WOW! Worcester. In 2017, a duo of Massachusetts artists – Josie Morway and Scott Lisford – shared a 35’x 100’ wall in the museum’s Lancaster Lobby and Café.
At the close of the 19th century, Worcester industrialists led by Stephen Salisbury III founded the Worcester Art Museum “for the benefit of all the people.” Intent on elevating the cultural outlook of the city’s working population, they built the museum at 55 Salisbury Street and opened in 1898. The original collection was small, consisting mostly of plaster casts of ancient and Renaissance sculpture, but the wealth generated by local industry along with a large bequest from Stephen Salisbury III upon his 1905 death allowed curators to aggressively acquire everything from third-century roman mosaics to twentieth-century works by Picasso, Gauguin, and Kandinsky. Even as Worcester’s industrial profits waned over the 20th century, WAM has remained relevant by imaginatively reconceiving the exhibition of their permanent collection and acquiring the John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection after the Higgins Armory Museum closed due to budgetary constraints.