Detail of UW Madison Arboretum mural depiction of Harry Whitehorse by Viktor Bakhtin.

The next time you visit the UW Madison’s Arboretum, pay close attention to the murals located in the Visitor Center Orientation Theater created by the great Russian wildlife artist, Viktor Bakhtin. Viktor admired Harry’s work and was inspired to include him in the mural to honor Harry’s connection to the Four Lakes area. Harry was moved by Viktor’s paintings and recognized their mutual close relationship to nature.

I was thinking of Viktor’s visits to Harry and looked him up, discovering that sadly, Viktor passed on in 2016. Former UW Arboretum director Greg Armstrong suggested that Viktor Bakhtin create the murals. Greg wrote a heartfelt tribute to Viktor, “Remembering Viktor Bakhtin”, posted on the Arboretum’s website.

Among the people he consulted was Harry Whitehorse, a Ho-Chunk Nation artist, whose ancient ancestors built the mounds located at the Arboretum. Victor portrayed the First Nation’s relationship to the land from the time the glaciers receded more than 12,000 years ago. Read more.

I hadn’t thought of the murals in a long time. Harry’s influence and works were so numerous, it’s often too easy for me to forget the wonderful projects that always seemed to come his way.
Deb Whitehorse

Working sketch of the mural by Viktor Bakhtin.