Local artist shares what Overture means to him and the Madison community
Some of Robert Jaeger’s most joyful moments have been experienced behind the lens of his camera. A chemist at St. Mary’s Hospital by day, Jaeger spent decades pursuing photography in his free time, usually focusing on landscapes, scenic views and nature.
“Nature is my grounding place, so my photography work is heavily into nature,” said Jaeger, who considers himself a serious amateur photographer.
His project “Reflections on Confinement”, featuring the human/animal interaction at Henry Vilas Zoo, was his first social statement made through his photography. As he worked on the project, a few years in the making, he thought it may be a project that would interest Overture Center.
“I knew to be accepted into Overture Galleries, I’d need to have something unique, out of the ordinary,” he said.
His exhibitor application coincided nicely with the search for environmental-themed exhibits for the spring 2020 cycle in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
“I was quite flattered to get my work into Overture Galleries,” said Jaeger. “It was an honor to be selected, certainly a high point of my career.”
Jaeger felt that all the artists in the spring cycle made powerful statements. He was sad when public viewing was cut short due to COVID-19 and Overture’s subsequent closing on March 13, reducing the opportunity to influence people through the great pieces. However, he feels Overture’s move to a virtual gallery was amazing, a wonderful attempt to share the messages across the country and the world.
Jaeger hopes that after the pandemic people will be more appreciative of nature since it’s a constant source for joy and peace during these uncertain times. Meanwhile, he’s using his quiet time during the pandemic to start new photography projects and apply for future exhibits.
“To list an exhibit at Overture Center on my resume is a huge benefit as I work to get into more exhibits around the state. Overture Center is the most prestigious place in Madison for amateurs to exhibit their work. It’s the highest honor an amateur artist can get,” he said. “And it’s got me thinking of other social statements I can make through my artwork.”
Even before exhibiting at Overture, Jaeger enjoyed visiting Overture to see artwork, concerts and shows. As a nature enthusiast, he is an especially big fan of the National Geographic Live series.
“When Overture closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought, ‘What would this community be without Overture?’ It was a sad thought,” said Jaeger. “Now as it’s been closed for several months, I hope people are realizing how important it is to us and what a great loss it would be if it was gone.”
He says Overture has done an extremely great job of bringing the community together through a variety of art—shows and festivals and exhibits, claiming the organization is a huge benefit to the city and community. He encourages all artists and patrons to support Overture during this critical time, so it comes back strong when it’s safe to reopen.
“The advancement of the arts is important,” said Jaeger. “People need art and need to be inspired, and that’s one of the greatest things Overture does.”