The UW-La Crosse Center for the Arts will soon be named after one of the most accomplished alumni in the university’s 113-year history, the university announced Friday.
Truman Lowe graduated from UWL in 1969 and went on to become a world-renowned artist, sculptor and University of Wisconsin art professor. The UW System Board of Regents approved adding Lowe’s name to the arts building on February 10.
He was known for his large art installations using natural materials, often focusing on the natural world and his Ho-Chunk heritage, which were shown nationally and internationally. He earned a master of fine arts degree from UW-Madison in 1973 and taught as a professor of art there for over 30 years, including a stint as chair of the Art Department from 1992 to 1995, and went on to curate contemporary art for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2008. Lowe, honored twice as a distinguished alumnus at UWL, died in 2019 at age 75.
According to the UWL announcement, Chancellor Joe Gow proposed the idea in September, noting Lowe’s remarkable accomplishments as both an artist and educator, as well as the way he helped advance the perception of Native American art and culture.
“During his life, Truman Lowe fully embodied the UWL spirit — striving for excellence, honoring one’s culture and heritage, and leaving the world a better place than we found it,” Gow said in a statement posted to the UWL website. “I’m proud to call Truman Lowe an alumnus of our university. I hope seeing his name on the Center for the Arts will inspire future generations to learn about his legacy and work to create their own.”
Lowe, who was born in Black River Falls and is of Ho-Chunk ancestry, is the first person of color with a UWL building named in their honor.
More than 650 people pledged their support for the name change by signing an online petition during the fall semester.
Lowe’s family members say they’re grateful the man they knew is being celebrated for his outstanding career and transformative impact on so many people.
“On a personal level, he was an incredibly empathetic person and always knew what to say to support someone at a pivotal moment in their life,” Tonia Lowe, Truman’s daughter, said in a statement. “Professionally, he was part of a second wave of Native artists that really helped change people’s perceptions of what Native art could be. This feels like recognition for all the work he did to open people’s minds and pave the way for the next generation.”
“He really loved La Crosse — he loved the campus, the city and the beauty of the location. And it was really where he discovered art as a career,” said Nancy Lowe, Truman’s wife, also in a statement. “Seeing his name on a building would make him very, very happy and be incredibly meaningful to him. That’s what makes it so exciting for us.”
Lowe will be formally recognized at a building dedication ceremony later this year. Details will be announced soon.