By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 19, 2022 at 9:27 AM

A  22.5x8.5-foot mural painted for Marquette University by a UW-Milwaukee art professor is among the works included in a new show at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend.

Magic Wilderness: Dreamscapes of the Forest” includes pieces by 16 artists that turned their eyes toward the wilderness of Wisconsin. It will kick off with an opening reception with the artists on Saturday, Oc. 22 from 2 until 4 p.m. and then continues through Jan. 15.

One of the show’s highlights is the enormous mural by John Colt, commissioned in 1958 by 15 Milwaukee women to honor Rev. John J. Walsh, and installed in Bellarmine Hall, which housed the theater program’s Teatro Maria (as well as the campus bookstore and the university’s graduate school).

The women – from the Women's Club of Wisconsin – had taken part in Walsh's summer theater program.


After arriving at Marquette in 1951, Walsh spearheaded the work to turn Marquette’s extracurricular theater club into a professional theater program. He created Teatro Maria in the 1910 Bellarmine Hall – now Gesu Parish Hall.

After the Helfaer Theater was built at Marquette in 1973, the mural was de-installed and returned to Colt. In 2021,  the Kohler Foundation and Colt’s widow, Ruth Kjaer, donated it to MOWA. Colt died in 1999.

This is the first time it has been exhibited publicly in nearly a half a century.

Colt’s colorful, abstract composition is, in the words of MOWA, “an evocative composition of variations on themes drawn from natural forms. The leaf of the wild mandrake is a recurring motif, rendered in Colt’s mid-century palette of ethereal orange, green, yellow, and black.”

The show, laid out as an imaginary ecosystem, includes  paintings, sculptures, photographs and mixed media by Tom Uttech (including a work included in the 1975 Whitney Biennial), Jacob Bautista, Theodore Czebotar, Kyoung Ae Cho, Maureen Fritchen, Kevin Giese, Mary Hood, Andrew Khitsun, Gloriann Langva, Barbara Manger, Shane McAdams, Cassandra Smith, Fred Stonehouse, Brooke Thiele and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein.

MOWA will host a trio of Saturday afternoon talks at 2 p.m. related to the show, too, including “Fantastic Fungi,” Nov. 19, with Glen Stanosz, University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor of Tree and Forest Health; “Aldo Leopold – Natural Soundscapes and Spirit of Place,” Dec. 17, with retired University of Wisconsin–Madison professor Stan Temple; and “Wisconsin’s Magic Realism,” Jan. 14, with Minneapolis Institute of Art Curator of Painting, Robert Cozzolino, PhD.

The Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission starts at $15 and includes unlimited visits for one full year.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.