My Wustum Story

-by Barbara Brown Lee

My family moved to Racine in March of 1949. I transferred into the third grade at the Winslow School and there met a young man by the name of Michael Monroe. We became friends and he was attending art classes on Saturdays at the Wustum Museum. His teacher was Sylvester Jerry and Michael asked if he could bring a friend with him to class. The next Saturday we went together on the bus to class and Mr. Jerry agreed to let me come with Michael. And I continued all through grade school.

Mr. Jerry called us his “children” and encouraged us to participate in some of his projects at the Museum after class. We would help him get supplies, unpacked and stored, and clean up the classrooms, wash the brushes put away the paints etc. My Mother was amused to discover that I would stay almost the whole day “working” with Michael for Mr. Jerry at the Museum. Eventually Michael became the Curator-in-Charge at the Renwick Museum in Washington, DC, (Now Director Emeritus at Bellevue Arts Museum in Bellevue, Washington) and not too long ago helped Hillary Clinton incorporate art glass into the White House Collection. I on the other hand ended up joining the staff at the Milwaukee Art Museum, January 3, 1963.


Today I am still working as an educator and enjoying helping our visitors to see what I see when I look at a work of art.  I owe a lot to Mr. Jerry for teaching me about how art was made – painting, printmaking, working with clay and wire, and gaining insight into the process of art.  It has made me a better Museum educator. I still have a very soft spot for the Wustum Museum and my early training in a Museum setting. I was young and inexperienced and the atmosphere at Wustum was friendly and it was open enough to accept a young person who was starving to be part of the art world.
I am still a member of the Racine Art Museum and continue to support their programs and attend their exhibitions, and remain very proud of the accomplishments they have made in the last fifty years.