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Madison, Wisconsin

Madison Arts: Art Scene in Madison

The capital of Wisconsin has consistently ranked among the best places to live in the United States, for its low cost of living, cleanliness, and overall good health. Madison is also a culturally bustling city, with many professional and community performing arts organizations, numerous art museums, and independent art studios and galleries.

The vibrant musical scene in Madison is well known in the Midwest, and it is home to a number of national artists, as well as a plethora of seasonal music festivals. The city also boasts a handful of buildings by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who spent much of his youth and student years here.

Arts Info

  • Madison Arts Commission—Information on public art, exhibition spaces, links to local museums and art galleries, and more
  • Isthmus—Great coverage of the Madison arts scene
  • Madison Magazine—In addition to arts features, there is also an excellent calendar of arts & entertainment events taking place in the area

Art Museums

New Chazen Logo

Chazen Museum of Art (Madison, WI)

UW-Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art was, for most of its existence, big – now, it’s crossed the line to gargantuan. Housed in the 90,000-square foot Conrad Elvehjem building since its opening in 1970, the Chazen nearly doubled in size in October 2011 with the dedication of a second building. This second, as yet unnamed, building is conjoined with the Elvehjem via a third-story walkway and features an auditorium for film and lectures, new gallery space, and a grand lobby. ...more...

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

After over a century of residence in borrowed and refurbished locations, MMoCA moved into a sleek new glass building at the Overture Center for the Arts in 2006. Now prominent among the Overture Center’s other artistic offerings – the Madison Ballet, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, et. al.- MMoCA’s prow-like façade gleams at the corner of State and Henry Streets. ...more...

Theater

American Players Theatre

American Players Theatre (Spring Green, WI)

(June 9 – October 21, 2012) The American Players Theatre was founded in 1978 by Charles Bright, Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso, a trio of theatrical types on a mission to bring Shakespeare and other theater classics to life in the verdant Wisconsin woods. Situated on a former family farm, the APT is one of those rustic seasonal theater marvels, an experience as much about the location as about the production. ...more...

The Bricks Theatre

The Bricks Theatre

This young company, established in 2009, bills itself as supplying “candy for the brain via stellar and unique theatrical productions.” It engages Madison audiences by performing in both traditional and “unlikely” venues throughout the area, offering everything from one-acts to full-length published and original plays.

In the fall of 2010, the company launched its first mainstage season while continuing to present …more…

Classical Music

Madison Symphony Orchestra

Madison Symphony Orchestra

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) distinguishes itself from other American orchestras through deliberate choices for its repertoire: the ensemble makes a point to not perform “pops concerts,” instead focusing on classical music’s canonic compositions.  And with the recent commissioning of the Overture Concert Organ in 2001, works like Mozart’s Concerto for Flute & Harp and Saint-Saëns’s “Organ …more…

Token Creek Chamber Music Festival

Token Creek Chamber Music Festival

Held every year since 1989 in late August/early September at beautifully rustic Token Creek, this roughly weeklong festival of chamber music is hosted by composer John Harbison and his wife, violinist Rose Mary Harbison.  While festival programs prominently feature the works of contemporary composers like Harbison, György Kurtág, William Bolcom, and the late Roger Sessions, they are juxtaposed …more…

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

The WSO is an ensemble devoted to promoting the chamber music repertoire, began in 1960 under the name Madison Summer Symphony Orchestra.  As the group’s performances began to expand beyond Madison, it was renamed in 1974. While the works of Beethoven factor heavily in the orchestra’s concerts, performances have also featured compositions by contemporary composers such as Jennifer Higdon …more…

Opera

Madison Opera

Madison Opera

Founded as The Opera Workshop in 1961, Madison Opera presents three operas annually, along with the free Opera in the Park concert event. The company’s varied repertoire boasts powerhouse operatic works by the likes of Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Britten, and Copland as well as classic musicals like Carousel, Brigadoon, and Kiss Me Kate. ...more...

Jazz

Isthmus Jazz Fest

Isthmus Jazz Fest

Madison’s Isthmus Jazz Fest is the perfect blend of great music in a beautiful setting. Early in June each year, this festival plays host to a number of fantastic musicians who perform at the picturesque UW Memorial Union Terrace for enthusiastic crowds, who enjoy the sounds of everything from straight-ahead jazz quartets to danceable salsa bands and even a Mellophonium Orchestra or two. The Fest also features performances by local …more…

Madison Jazz Society

Madison Jazz Society

Formed in 1984, Madison Jazz Society is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of jazz in the greater Madison area. It hosts a number of jazz concerts throughout the year, plus the Capital City Jazz Festival, which it has hosted since the late 1908s. MJS also sponsors Wisconsin Public Radio’s broadcast of Riverwalk – Live from the Landing, which airs on affiliate stations throughout the country.

In addition to its …more…

Dance

Madison Ballet

Madison Ballet

Madison Ballet was founded in 1981 as the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble. The name was changed to Madison Ballet in 1999, when the company decided to broaden its focus; to that point, the WDE’s primary purpose was an annual presentation of The Nutcracker. Today, Madison Ballet, under the artistic directorship of W. Earle Smith, is dedicated to exposing ballet to the community by staging excellent performances, providing professional training, and delivering …more…

Venues

Overture Center for the Arts

Overture Center for the Arts

The Overture Center is the nexus point for just about the entire Madison art scene (the larger rock bands play at Camp Randall Stadium). Ten different artistic companies are in residence at the Overture, including Madison Ballet, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. ...more...

Wisconsin Union Theater

Wisconsin Union Theater

UW-Madison’s grand old Wisconsin Union Theater has been hosting eminent performers and speakers for over 70 years. Since its inauguration in 1939 with four performances of The Taming of the Shrew – which starred stage legends Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontaine – personages ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to Ella Fitzgerald have trod the Union’s boards. Some have even left aspects of themselves behind; the Union is widely rumored to be …more…

Art Museums

New Chazen Logo

Chazen Museum of Art (Madison, WI)

UW-Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art was, for most of its existence, big – now, it’s crossed the line to gargantuan. Housed in the 90,000-square foot Conrad Elvehjem building since its opening in 1970, the Chazen nearly doubled in size in October 2011 with the dedication of a second building. This second, as yet unnamed, building is conjoined with the Elvehjem via a third-story walkway and features an auditorium for film and lectures, new gallery space, and a grand lobby. ...more...

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

After over a century of residence in borrowed and refurbished locations, MMoCA moved into a sleek new glass building at the Overture Center for the Arts in 2006. Now prominent among the Overture Center’s other artistic offerings – the Madison Ballet, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, et. al.- MMoCA’s prow-like façade gleams at the corner of State and Henry Streets. ...more...

Theater

American Players Theatre

American Players Theatre (Spring Green, WI)

(June 9 – October 21, 2012) The American Players Theatre was founded in 1978 by Charles Bright, Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso, a trio of theatrical types on a mission to bring Shakespeare and other theater classics to life in the verdant Wisconsin woods. Situated on a former family farm, the APT is one of those rustic seasonal theater marvels, an experience as much about the location as about the production. ...more...

The Bricks Theatre

The Bricks Theatre

This young company, established in 2009, bills itself as supplying “candy for the brain via stellar and unique theatrical productions.” It engages Madison audiences by performing in both traditional and “unlikely” venues throughout the area, offering everything from one-acts to full-length published and original plays.

In the fall of 2010, the company launched its first mainstage season while continuing to present …more…

Classical Music

Madison Symphony Orchestra

Madison Symphony Orchestra

The Madison Symphony Orchestra (MSO) distinguishes itself from other American orchestras through deliberate choices for its repertoire: the ensemble makes a point to not perform “pops concerts,” instead focusing on classical music’s canonic compositions.  And with the recent commissioning of the Overture Concert Organ in 2001, works like Mozart’s Concerto for Flute & Harp and Saint-Saëns’s “Organ …more…

Token Creek Chamber Music Festival

Token Creek Chamber Music Festival

Held every year since 1989 in late August/early September at beautifully rustic Token Creek, this roughly weeklong festival of chamber music is hosted by composer John Harbison and his wife, violinist Rose Mary Harbison.  While festival programs prominently feature the works of contemporary composers like Harbison, György Kurtág, William Bolcom, and the late Roger Sessions, they are juxtaposed …more…

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra

The WSO is an ensemble devoted to promoting the chamber music repertoire, began in 1960 under the name Madison Summer Symphony Orchestra.  As the group’s performances began to expand beyond Madison, it was renamed in 1974. While the works of Beethoven factor heavily in the orchestra’s concerts, performances have also featured compositions by contemporary composers such as Jennifer Higdon …more…

Opera

Madison Opera

Madison Opera

Founded as The Opera Workshop in 1961, Madison Opera presents three operas annually, along with the free Opera in the Park concert event. The company’s varied repertoire boasts powerhouse operatic works by the likes of Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Britten, and Copland as well as classic musicals like Carousel, Brigadoon, and Kiss Me Kate. ...more...

Jazz

Isthmus Jazz Fest

Isthmus Jazz Fest

Madison’s Isthmus Jazz Fest is the perfect blend of great music in a beautiful setting. Early in June each year, this festival plays host to a number of fantastic musicians who perform at the picturesque UW Memorial Union Terrace for enthusiastic crowds, who enjoy the sounds of everything from straight-ahead jazz quartets to danceable salsa bands and even a Mellophonium Orchestra or two. The Fest also features performances by local …more…

Madison Jazz Society

Madison Jazz Society

Formed in 1984, Madison Jazz Society is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of jazz in the greater Madison area. It hosts a number of jazz concerts throughout the year, plus the Capital City Jazz Festival, which it has hosted since the late 1908s. MJS also sponsors Wisconsin Public Radio’s broadcast of Riverwalk – Live from the Landing, which airs on affiliate stations throughout the country.

In addition to its …more…

Dance

Madison Ballet

Madison Ballet

Madison Ballet was founded in 1981 as the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble. The name was changed to Madison Ballet in 1999, when the company decided to broaden its focus; to that point, the WDE’s primary purpose was an annual presentation of The Nutcracker. Today, Madison Ballet, under the artistic directorship of W. Earle Smith, is dedicated to exposing ballet to the community by staging excellent performances, providing professional training, and delivering …more…

Venues

Overture Center for the Arts

Overture Center for the Arts

The Overture Center is the nexus point for just about the entire Madison art scene (the larger rock bands play at Camp Randall Stadium). Ten different artistic companies are in residence at the Overture, including Madison Ballet, the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. ...more...

Wisconsin Union Theater

Wisconsin Union Theater

UW-Madison’s grand old Wisconsin Union Theater has been hosting eminent performers and speakers for over 70 years. Since its inauguration in 1939 with four performances of The Taming of the Shrew – which starred stage legends Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontaine – personages ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to Ella Fitzgerald have trod the Union’s boards. Some have even left aspects of themselves behind; the Union is widely rumored to be …more…