Wisconsin History and Visual Arts Tour 

The Wisconsin History and Visual Arts Tour (WHVA) is an activity-based school group program designed to enhance fourth-grade students’ education, creativity, and cultural literacy. This unique museum experience incorporates gallery tours, art making, a live performance, and multiple activities for creating, imagining, and connecting with art and Wisconsin history.

On this tour, students do not move passively through the museum staring at works of art while someone talks at them. Research has established that people learn more, and enjoy learning, when the learning process is interactive. Hands-on activities of various types help all of us to engage with the artworks and they offer multiple entry points for students with different learning styles, students with English as a second language, and students with learning disabilities. The added activities give all students ways to investigate a work of art and are intended to spark creative responses.

Launched in 2012, the program welcomes thousands of fourth-grade students and teachers from throughout the state to the Museum of Wisconsin Art.  


Wisconsin History and Visual Arts Tour includes:

  • Live Performance: Students attend a dramatic performance about artist Mary Nohl, set against a backdrop of her Lake Michigan home. Actors portray Mary Nohl and her biographer, Barbara Manger. Students learn about Nohl’s life, why her home became known as the “witch house,” how she became an artist, and her legacy as a philanthropist.

  • Interactive Gallery Tour: Each student receives an interactive guide and travels through the galleries with a teacher or chaperone. Students view the art and learn about Wisconsin history through observation and inquiry, writing and discussion, games and play-based activities, and group collaboration. For example, they use Froebel blocks positioned near Frank Lloyd Wright chairs to build a structure evocative of the Prairie School of architecture and design; they listen to a story about the enormous, drama-filled Flagellants painting; and they “meet” working Wisconsin artists through video interviews.

  • Art Making: Inspired by the artwork of Mary Nohl, students convene in the studios for a hands-on, art making session. Each student creates his/her own 3D Mary Nohl–inspired sculpture to take home. 

MOWA’s permanent collection is a unique resource for students to learn about Wisconsin history. The museum setting facilitates hands-on, engaging experiences that accommodate different learning styles. And, in turn, students make connections between history and the present day that fascinate and delight.

Download the WHVA Teacher Guide (PDF)