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History of Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin


The free campus art museum with thousands of rotating works + exhibits. | Photo by 608today team

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176,000 sqft, 23,000+ works of art, and centuries of history captured.

The Chazen Museum of Art is one of Madison’s most eclectic and celebrated collections, sharing how visual arts enrich the human experience. Let’s paint a picture of the historical ties, major influences, and how to visit the free museum yourself.


The museum first opened in 1970 as the Elvehjem Art Center. That name ring any bells? Conrad Elvehjem was a Dairyland native most notably recognized for his international work in biochemistry. Around these parts, his claim to fame comes from his ties to the university.

After earning a B.S., M.S. + Ph.D. all from UW, Elvehjem continued his entire academic career in Wisconsin as a professor, department head, and even president. These days you might see the name around town at places like the Conrad Elvehjem Primary School or Elvehjem Park, or in the Elvehjem neighborhood. Eight years later, the art center was renamed + became Elvehjem Museum of Art.


In 2005, UW alumni Simona and Jerome A. Chazen gifted a $20 million building-expansion donation to the museum, leading to one final name change — Chazen Museum of Art. Six years later, the expansion opened to the public, doubling the overall size of the museum. Today, the two buildings are conjoined by a skybridge gallery above the East Campus Gallery walk.


Following their removal during COVID-19, books are back for browsing in Niche 11. | Photo by Kirstin Pires


While guided tours are currently on hold, you can check out hours, parking information + more right here. Pro tip: Visitors may sketch in the galleries, just be sure to review the guidelines before starting your very own masterpiece in the museum.

Currently on display

I Left My Heart… | Kayla Bauer | Through July 17, 2022

City of Nature | Kota Ezawa | Through Sept. 11, 2022

Suspended Landscapes: Thread Drawings | Amanda McCavour | Through Sept. 11, 2022