Since 1999 the Chipstone Foundation has partnered with museums to present creative argument-driven exhibitions to the public. 

Functional Fashions

This display introduces the Functional Fashions clothing line (1955-1976), in which nearly thirty of the United States’ top clothing designers created garments to fit disabled bodies. It remains largest collaborative effort to create clothing by, with, and for disabled persons in American history. Brands ranged from high-end sportswear to everyday labels. Leading the charge was designer Helen Cookman (1894–1973), whose own disability was hearing loss. This display explores how the Functional Fashions line attempted to help disabled users meet the mental and physical requirements of the postwar American ideal of independence. Read more about the installation here.

Functional Fashions is open in the Jane and George Kaiser Gallery of 20th and 21st Century Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

March 23, 2019 - April 1, 2020

Fo Wilson: Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities

This summer, Chicago-based artist Fo Wilson unveils Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities on the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden. The full-scale structure is both wunderkammer and slave cabin; it imagines what a 19th-century woman of African descent might have collected, catalogued and stowed in her living quarters. What did she find curious about the objects and culture of her European captors? Southern plantation life? The natural world around her? Informed by historical research, but represented in the past, present and future simultaneously, Eliza--animated by an Afro-Futurist vision that embodies a hopeful version of an African American future--presents an imagined collection of found and original objects, furnishings and artifacts. Eliza's Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities is a collaboration with the Chipstone Foundation.

Mrs. M.–––––'s Cabinet

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is a lavish nineteenth-century interior, filled with some of the finest and most diverse objects found in the British Atlantic colonies in the seventeenth century.  This Cabinet is designed to inspire wonder, curiosity and perhaps even some mystery. Mrs. M.––––– herself is a mysterious character, one who exists somewhere between fact and fiction. Her remarkable tale and impressive collection allow the Chipstone Foundation to tell unexpectedly true stories about early America. 

Mrs. M.–––––’s Cabinet is now open in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum

Visit Mrs. M.–––––’s Cabinet


NEO comes from the Greek word neos, meaning “young” or “new.” As a prefix, “neo” appears in a wide variety of words, such as Neoclassicism, Neoconservatism, Neorealism, and even Neofuturism. These words acknowledge an origin, a past, while simultaneously transforming it into something new. In this gallery, gifted contemporary artists investigate the material, emotional, aesthetic, and intellectual links between past and present at the heart of NEO.  

In the NEO gallery we feature work by contemporary artists Jennifer Anderson, Elizabeth Duffy, Sarah Lindley, Beth Lipman, Thomas Loeser, Gord Peteran and Jim Rose, including several works of art commissioned for NEO.  In particular, Beth Lipman’s Secretary with Chipmunk (2015) redeems the soul of an eighteenth-century Boston Bombé Desk and Bookcase by replacing parts of it that had been added by a twentieth-century forger with beautiful, sculptural glass elements. 

NEO is now open in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum


The Dave Project

Today we know him today as “Dave the Potter” or just “Dave.” Highly talented, he created monumental ceramic vessels that are now found in the finest art museums in America. David Drake (ca. 1800-1870s) is a heroic historic figure, and his story and craftsmanship inspired The Dave Project gallery, which celebrates the stories and skills of important African American artisans.  The Dave Project includes work by Thomas Commeraw, Thomas Day, David Drake, Miligan Frazier, John Hemmings, John Sable, Rich Williams and others.

Milwaukee-based artist Mutope J. Johnson (b. 1954) created the eight paintings featured on the labels in The Dave Project gallery. Johnson created each image based on careful research, collaboration with the Chipstone team, and his own creative response to the objects.  His paintings enrich the stories we are able to tell about the artists featured in The Dave Project by visualizing the worlds these objects once inhabited. 

The Dave Project is now open in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Art of Carving

Carving is more than just a type of decoration. It can augment forms and structural details, emphasize the flow of a design, communicate ideas, and stimulate the imagination. This gallery explores the “Art and Mysterie” of carving through some of the finest examples of eighteenth-century American decorative arts.

The gallery brings together fifty of the most celebrated examples of early American carving from both local and national collections. Two videos created for the gallery, as well as engaging comparisons among a variety of objects, from print sources and stove plates to chairs and bed posts, transform the way visitors think about The Art of Carving. 

The Art of Carving is now open in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Chipstone Cosmos

Thousands of years ago, long before Astronomy and Astrology existed, people found meaning in the night sky. They saw shapes formed by the stars and associated these with their own existing myths and stories. These “Constellations” functioned as mnemonic devices, easily recognizable imagery that brought a sense of order to the revolving orientation of the sun, moon, and stars. 

Inspired by this ritual, we have located eight historical objects—from the earliest porcelain made in America to a 200-year-old reindeer hide excavated from the bottom of the English Channel—in the expansive night sky. We think of it as The Chipstone Cosmos.

In the gallery, visitors are invited to explore a digital version of The Chipstone Cosmos. Each highlighted star is associated with a particular image or idea linked to that object. The night sky now can serve to remind us of the multiple stories associated with the material things you may encounter in every museum gallery. 

The Chipstone Cosmos is now open in the Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum