Mayor’s Purchase Award granted for a portrait of activist, leader, & public servant Dick Wagner
Dedication with artist Rae Senarighi to be held March 2, 2023 at 6:30 PM
City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway selected a portrait of Dick Wagner by Rae Senarighi, aka Transpainter, for the 2022 Mayor’s Purchase Award. The purchase of the work honors beloved gay rights activist, community leader, and public servant, Dick Wagner. Wagner worked for the State of Wisconsin for 33 years, and was the first openly gay member of the Dane County Board of Supervisors, including four years as the first openly gay county board chair in Wisconsin. Dick paved the way for generations of LGBTQ politicians, activists, and public figures in Wisconsin. He passed away on December 13, 2021.
In Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway’s public statement about the death of Dick Wagner she stated, “Dick Wagner was a Madison icon, a true public servant, and a pillar of our community. His impact spanned decades and he will be deeply missed.” She went on to say, “He was an outstanding leader in the LGBTQ community, and a personal inspiration for me. As the first openly gay member of the Dane County Board, elected in 1980, he was a trailblazer and a mentor for many. He was a respected historian, and wrote two books on Wisconsin’s LGBTQ history, ensuring that our stories will be told for years to come.” The Mayor also enumerated some of the many contributions Dick made to the City of Madison, serving on numerous City committees including the Urban Design, Plan, and Landmarks Commissions. He has most recently been instrumental in the expansion of Olbrich Gardens.
Our Lives Magazine commissioned Rae Senarighi, aka Transpainter, to paint a portrait of the dexterous, public servant, Dick Wagner for their March/April 2022 issue. Although Rae’s work typically centers on representations of transgender artists, activists, and leaders, he happily accepted the offer to commemorate the important activist and community member.
The Mayor’s purchase of the portrait was underwritten with generous funding from a group of Madison residents who admired and respected Dick and all he did for the community. Local art collectors Rodney Schreiner and Mark Blank championed the effort and provided the lead gift for the purchase from their fund at the Madison Community Foundation.
Rodney Schreiner, PhD, was a Senior Scientist in the Department of Chemistry at UW-Madison until his retirement in 2016. He and his husband, Mark are active art collectors and Rodney is co-chair of the Vision Gallery Committee of the McPherson Eye Research Institute. As collector’s they focused on works that appeal to them personally, rather than focusing on what works will ultimately be a good investment. In an Isthmus article about local art collectors by Jennifer Smith the couple explained that they purchase contemporary works only, as a way to encourage living artists.
Rae Senarighi graciously donated their proceeds from the Mayor’s purchase award to the Friends of the Madison Art Commission (FoMAC) to support the Rainbow Crossings initiative. “I'm grateful to be a part of this project that will create lasting impact on the Madison area and state wide community. My artwork centers celebratory LGBTQ+ representation. This feels like a beautiful way to honor the legacy of Dick Wagner and the important work he did to advance the rights of LGBTQ+ people.”
The City & County will hold a joint dedication of the portrait outside the Council/County board chambers, in Room 201, City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, on March 2, 2023 at 6:30 PM.
The Madison Arts Commission (MAC), an 11-member citizen commission appointed by the Mayor to advise the City about matters of arts and culture. MAC’s mission is to foster arts appreciation by initiating partnerships, developing new audiences, and sponsoring diverse artistic activities by emerging and established artists and arts organizations while preserving Madison’s rich artistic tradition. To support a full creative life for all, The Madison Arts Commission commits to championing policies and practices of cultural equity that empower a just, inclusive, equitable city.
- Karin Wolf, Madison Arts & Culture Administrator, 608.261.9134, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Meri Rose Ekberg, Community & Cultural Resources Planner, 608.267.8744, email@example.com