A longtime photography group in Madison wants to expand its reach — and challenge its members — in a series of big changes starting with its new name: PhotoMidwest.

Formerly known as The Center for Photography at Madison, the 220-member organization is celebrating its renewed mission with a festival of photography events through October.

PhotoMidwest also is holding its biennial juried exhibit, titled “Of Midwest, By Midwest: Photography and Midwestern Culture,” in Overture Center Galleries 1 and 2 through Nov. 30.

“Of Midwest, By Midwest” invited submissions by photographers in states ranging from Wisconsin to Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.

That broad reach is part of PhotoMidwest’s plan to become a hub and a resource for other photography organizations throughout the nation’s heartland.

“There’s a thriving photographic arts culture on the East and West coasts — as well as in Chicago,” said Bill Pielsticker, president of PhotoMidwest. But although there is a “Midwestern approach to photography” outside Chicago, it isn’t often recognized or validated, he said.

PhotoMidwest’s plans include establishing a speaker’s bureau and compiling a list of regional photography instructors and the types of workshops and classes they offer.

By offering those types of resources, the group hopes to connect professionals, amateurs, academics and small, local camera clubs all interested in the photographic arts.

Along with the classes, workshops, lectures and informal gatherings it sponsors, PhotoMidwest gives photographers a way to find mentors in the arts community, Pielsticker said.

But now the group also wants to offer higher-level training opportunities for more experienced photographers, he said.

“One of the things we realized in our self-review (before changing the group’s name and goals) was that for a long time we offered education and support for people interested in improving their skills — but sort of graduated people out when they reached a certain level,” he said.

Founded in 1998 and currently run by volunteers, PhotoMidwest hopes to hire an executive director within a few years.

“We see that as a critical piece of the growth of the organization,” Pielsticker said. “It’s a key step to aid in our development.”


Gayle Worland is an arts and features reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.