I saw this exhibit, The Art of Rural Wisconsin- 1936 – 1960 in 1985 when I was a graduate studentl at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Recently I found the catalogue from that exhibit in a used bookstore in Madison.
“In 1936, the College of Agriculture of the University of Wisconsin-Madison initiated a Rural Art Program intended to encourage cultural development in rural areas of the state. The decision to initiate such a project seems improbable when one considers that a major agricultural college was making a commitment to the arts at a time when the farm sector was still recovering from severe economic depression. Moreover, rural people have traditionally been portrayed as lacking appreciation for the fine arts. Those factors, combined with the general lack of art education or popular art organizations throughout the state, made the program’s potential for success unclear when the program began.” (Page two of the catalogue).
Personally, I think the program was a success. My father grew up in Jefferson County, Wisconsin on a farm. He was a fifth generation German-American, and his father could not wait to get off the farm. My father was born in 1931 and in 1957 he became the first lay professor at St. Norbert College. He taught art.