It is with a heavy heart that we write to share the news that our colleague and friend Sherry Wagner-Henry passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, May 30, 2020, due to complications from surgery. We wish to honor Sherry’s memory by celebrating the many significant contributions she made to the Division of the Arts and the creative community at UW–Madison.
For more than 25 years, Sherry served as a leader in nonprofit, arts, cultural, and humanities-based centers in higher education institutions. Since 2012, she energetically served as Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business. In this capacity, Sherry partnered with and supported the Division in countless ways.
She was a member of the Division’s Executive/Steering Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee, which looked at curricular issues facing the arts across campus, and was involved in planning for the 2020 a2ru national conference hosted by UW–Madison. Her insights and belief in the power of collaboration were invaluable.
Sherry started the Creative Placemaking Consortium and worked with the Division to start the Creative Placemaking Hub. She developed and taught a new intensive Creative Placemaking course through the Division in 2018, partnering with Anne Katz of Arts Wisconsin to take students to rural and urban communities around Wisconsin. Sherry was a champion of the arts, which shone through in her work as an educator and innovator in the interdisciplinary arts, and in her successful effort to bring Stuart Flack as Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence in fall 2018.
In 2018, Sherry was appointed by Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf as Director of Campus Arts Business Initiatives to consult with the Division for a three-year term. She organized a series of benchmarking trips to peer institutions to gain insights about how they structure interdisciplinary arts. Sherry was instrumental in the Division hosting the November 2018 National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Town Hall to discuss its white paper “The Integration of the Humanities and with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” We are so grateful to Sherry for connecting us to colleagues far and wide.
Most recently, Sherry was awarded the 2020 Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts, which recognizes achievements of UW–Madison faculty and staff engaged in outreach and public service in the creative arts. Her passionate work building community through the arts and in providing opportunities for young arts administration professionals made a tremendous difference to both individuals and collectives.
Sherry’s passing is a terrible personal and professional loss for many of us, and we want to acknowledge the impact that this is having on all of us, on top of an extremely difficult time locally and nationally. Should you have any need for support, please know that there are mental health resources available through University Health Services and the Employee Assistance Office.
A memorial website was created in tribute to Sherry, for her family, friends, colleagues, students, and the community she loved. This is a place to share stories, memories, tributes, photos, and videos, to remember her life, honor her memory, and celebrate the joy and privilege of knowing this amazing woman.
We will miss our colleague, mentor, and friend.