"As construction was underway to create the contemporary architecture of the art museum from two side-by-side mid-nineteenth century structures, we were reminded daily of the building's notorious history. Our corner building was the American Bank and Trust Company, site of a Dillinger robbery nearly 76 years ago, now depicted in the film "Public Enemies"," recalls RAM Executive Director Bruce W. Pepich.
At RAM, "The Scene of the Crime: Warrington Colescott Depicts Dillinger", open May 24 through September 6, 2009, commemorates this historic event. Featuring the exploits of fabled Depression era outlaw Dillinger, this exhibition of graphics is drawn from RAM's extensive holdings of work by the Wisconsin printmaker, Warrington Colescott. In the 1960s, Colescott created a series of etchings based on stories he heard about John Dillinger. Many of these prints were in RAM's collection before the new museum opened on the site in 2003. For added interest, the show will be displayed in a space adjacent to one of the bank's original vaults, still intact inside RAM and rarely seen by the public.
Colescott is best known for his superbly executed etchings that combine a mastery of printmaking techniques with a brilliant use of color and line. A member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) from 1949 to 1986, he introduced the first course in etching in 1960; under his tutelage, the program subsequently has become world renowned for research in color etching techniques. RAM owns nearly 70 examples of works by this important Wisconsin artist.
Colescott's decision to explore the Dillinger theme in his first series of prints was the direct outgrowth of joining the UW faculty. Spurred by colleagues who were gangland lore enthusiasts, as well as by his own recollections of the bandit's escapades drawn from radio, newsreel accounts and Hollywood movies, Colescott created a body of work between 1964 and 1974 that provides a fresh interpretation of the Dillinger story. In the etchings, watercolors and lithographs of this period, Colescott portrays the robber as a betrayed Midwest folk hero, while commenting on America's system of justice of the 1930s.
To mark the building's role in John Dillinger's history, RAM will host an evening event dedicated to historical figures on Thursday, July 9, 2009 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Part of a series of summer get-togethers at the museum, Meet Me On the Patio: Enemies and Friends invites guests to enjoy their contemporary social networks with the backdrop of art and history.
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Together, the two campuses of the Racine Art Museum, RAM in downtown Racine at 441 Main Street and the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts at 2519 Northwestern Avenue, seek to elevate the stature of contemporary crafts to that of fine art by exhibiting significant works in craft media with painting, sculpture and photography, while providing outstanding educational art programming.
Docent led contemporary craft and architectural tours of the museums are available. Both campuses of the Racine Art Museum, are open to the public Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, and are closed Mondays, Federal holidays and Easter. RAM is open Sunday Noon - 5:00 pm, while Wustum is closed Sundays. An admission fee of $5 for adults, with reduced fees for students and seniors, applies at RAM. Admission to Wustum is free. Members are always admitted without charge to either campus.