Meet Woodlands Resident Joanne Wise

Since moving to The Woodlands in December 2020, Joanne Wise has brought the magic of visual arts to her fellow residents in more ways than one.

“When I moved in, I saw there were opportunities to do more art-related things, so I decided to organize a four-week drawing class with charcoal and pencil, taught by artist Michael Kraatz, who teaches at AVA, one of our biggest visual arts centers around here. Once the COVID situation improves, we’re going to try and get as many local professional artists as we can to come in and teach workshops here.”

Until then, she has asked several Woodlands residents, including a talented calligrapher and a quilter, to teach their own classes. She has also gained another art job, after the resident who assembled the art on display around the community stepped down. “The walls recently had a new paint job, so now we’re rehanging all the artwork in different spots,” she said. “I’m also trying to get some outside artists to allow me to show their work here. Very soon we’re going to host a reception where the artists who lent us their pieces will come in and talk about their process. That will turn a lot of people on, I think.”

Meet Woodlands Resident Joanne Wise

Many of those new works have a more contemporary flavor, said Joanne, so while residents are really enjoying them, some aren’t as sure what they are all about. But that should soon change, she said.

“For a lot of people, art is like a blackhole,” she said. “There is a generation here that has grown up with less abstract art in their life, so they tend to prefer photographs and traditional landscapes. What I want to do is have these artists who donated their work come in and talk about how to look at contemporary art, to see what they’re trying to say in their painting or sculpture or whatever they’re doing.”

Earlier in life, Joanne worked at Woman’s Day magazine in New York, then moved to her hometown of Philadelphia for a job in advertising. In 1976, she moved to Atlanta to serve as national promotion director for President Carter’s campaign. There, she met her future husband, Doug, and later moved with him to Tokyo.

It was this relocation that stoked Joanne’s passion for collecting art. After several years, she brought home a dozen Japanese artists’ works and used them to start The Wise Collection, which she ran for about 25 years.

Since she couldn’t keep the collection going after moving to New Hampshire, where her late husband had attended Dartmouth, Joanne decided to start several art nonprofits in the area. Today, both the North Country Studio Workshops and the Upper Valley Arts Alliance are still running.

“Because I’ve been in art administration myself, I really enjoy talking to people about art,” said Joanne. “There is a lot of fabulous visual and performing arts in the Upper Valley — I’ve been involved in the Hood Museum and Northern Stage. I like trying to help organizations get out information about how good their work is. It’s a job and a love for me.”

In the meantime, Joanne is happy to continue pursuing her lifelong passion while living at The Woodlands: engaging with professional artists and sharing their art with others.

“I’m so lucky to be at The Woodlands,” said Joanne. “It’s a wonderful community, and I’m glad it’s small. Even in the few months I’ve been here I think I probably know everybody. I find this place to be just extremely giving and loving. I’m very fortunate.”