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Art Professor Michael Christopherson Chosen
for Max Schoenfeld Distinguished Professorship

RELEASED: Sept.19, 2007

Michael Christopherson
Mike Christopherson

EAU CLAIRE — Michael Christopherson, professor of art & design, is the 2007-08 recipient of the Maxwell Schoenfeld Distinguished Professorship at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

The award, which was created in honor of Maxwell Schoenfeld, a UW-Eau Claire history professor and scholar from 1964 until his death in 1996, recognizes a commitment to the university, achievement in scholarship and a commitment to student learning and life.

Christopherson said this award is the most precious honor he's received in his 27 years of teaching.

"I have always described Max Schoenfeld as the most inspirational lecturer I had in undergraduate school," Christopherson said. "I enrolled in his class at a time when I was floundering in school, and he was the first professor that invited me to his office to offer words of encouragement. After 40 years, I still have a vivid memory of the intellectual delight he provided and his gentle nature."

Steve Terwilliger, chair of the department of art & design and a longtime colleague of Christopherson's, said he knew that Christopherson was a natural for this nomination.

"The committee was very pleased to see his name come forward, and as Mike has recounted, Max Schoenfeld's help toMike when he was an undergraduate student here represents a most fitting full circle for this award," Terwilliger said.

Christopherson graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture in 1971. He received his master of fine arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1973, and for a time taught art at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He later returned to Eau Claire to manage a machine shop, joining the UW-Eau Claire art & design faculty in 1987.

Christopherson has been an active artist and scholar, showing his own work often as well as helping other artists to get recognition. In 1997, following the death of Hallie folk artist Vincent "Frenchy" Petrick, Christopherson helped catalog his work in an effort to see it reach a larger audience, including folk art collectors. From 1998-2000 he and fellow art professor Tiit Raid (now retired) collaborated with gifted and talented students from Northstar Middle School to create a sculptural painting that now hangs inside the main entrance of the school. And in 2002, he collaborated with others to bring a show of the work of UW-Eau Claire art professor and sculptor George Hagale, who died in 2001, to the Foster Gallery before Hagale's collection of his own work was divided up between his relatives.

That same year, Christopherson received a Best in Show award for one of his own sculptures at Wisconsin Arts West 23, the annual juried art show held at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, and also had a solo show of 16 pieces at the Circa Gallery in Minneapolis, where he has had three solo shows. In 2003, he participated in the local "Our Town" exhibit, showing a bench he created out of wood from the historic council oak tree that was once used as a gathering place for Native Americans and eventually became part of UW-Eau Claire's lower campus.

Currently, Christopherson is one of two featured faculty artists at the annual faculty art show on display in Foster Gallery now through Oct. 4, where he is exhibiting four large abstract sculptures created in 2006. The works are wall reliefs made of pine and acrylic paint and each uses the circle as the dominant element in the design of the sculpture.

An upcoming exhibit at the Center for Visual Arts in downtown Wausau, Wis., will feature 12-15 pieces of his sculpture. The Exhibition, titled "Negative Spaces, Positive Forces," will run Oct. 5 through Nov. 11.

Christopherson said he plans to use the $2,500 award that comes with the Max Schoenfeld Professorship to purchase materials for his sculptures and to buy tools that previously he could only dream of owning.

"A trip to the East Coast to visit as many museums as I can handle in a week would also be nice," Christopherson said.



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