Interview: Doug E. L. Haynes, “100 Sketches of George L. Mosse Humanities”

Doug Haynes sketch of the Humanities Building which shows the Mosse Program offices
Doug E. L. Haynes sketch of the Humanities Building. Mosse Program offices are visible (upper corner, fifth floor windows).

On Friday, 23 February, the Mosse Program interviewed UW-Madison graduate and local artist Doug E. L. Haynes. Haynes is completing a book “One Hundred Sketches of the George L. Mosse Humanities Building.” We got an inside look at his work and discussed the promise and pitfalls of the campus’s controversial brutalist space.

Haynes is gathering opinions about the building; so be sure to respond to his survey available here.

The following interview has been lightly edited for publication.

Skye Doney: You are currently working on a project to complete 100 original sketches of the George L. Mosse Humanities Building. We want to talk about that. But first, could you say a bit about your origins and relationship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison? You’re a long-time resident of Madison, right?

Doug Haynes: Yes. This is my hometown. I was born at Meriter Hospital, which was Madison General in 1963.

Doney: How do you think the city has changed since then?

Haynes: You know, it’s like Theseus’ ship, right? A lot of things keep shifting, but it’s the same ship. There’s a degree to which, no matter how much Madison changes, you can’t escape the fact that we’re on an isthmus and that prevents a lot of radical transformation.

But in other ways Madison has changed, yes. Like when I was a kid, it was kind of accepted in school that you’d get bullied. …  And the teachers would be like, “Man up,” or whatever. That’s different now. You know, I just retired from 18 years at MMSD [Madison Metropolitan School District]. That kind of thing no longer flies; teachers are meant to set an example.

Doney: So you were a teacher?

Haynes: Yes. I got my master’s here at UW.

Doney: Nice. You had a dual career as both a teacher and as a professional artist?

Haynes: Yeah. Yeah. And I was working half time, which was awesome because that made it possible for me to have this dual career and dual life.

Doney: Can you tell me a little bit about how you became an artist?

Haynes: Oh, well, okay. So when I was in kindergarten, I was drawing dinosaurs and trains and just whatever was exciting. It was a passion that has continued for a long time. And it’s never let up. In high school, Don Hunt was my ceramics teacher at West High School here in Madison. And he really gave me a lot of passion for art. And I said: I want to be an art teacher like Don. He had a big influence on me. So I ended up doing ceramics for ten years after that. And eventually I returned to painting and drawing. But ceramics is where I’d started out.

Doney: And your teacher, he got to see you become an artist.

Haynes: Yes, he did. And I continued to study art as a student at UW—and that was my first introduction to the Humanities Building.

The first art class, the first college course I took was on the seventh floor. And I took ceramics here in the Humanities Building. I had just graduated from West High School. I was eighteen years old. I’d just turned eighteen like in May. And I came here and I took this summer ceramics class. And it was just amazing. I was young and kind of impressionable and this was a great place to be, you know, trying out what it was like to be an artist on campus. … It was just one of the settings of my life’s drama, you know. And I think that must be true of many students who have come through here. These eighteen- to twenty-year-olds, 21, or 22, whatever: those are impressionable years, right? You don’t forget that time and you don’t forget whatever setting you spent it in. That becomes kind of key.

Haynes sketch of the Mosse Humanities Building

Doney: So the building played a role in your artistic trajectory?

Haynes: Oh, yeah. It was kind of like moving out of like the safety of you know, high school into the big world.

Doney: What were some of the things that struck you about the Humanities Building, either then or now?

Haynes: Well, of course, it has a lot of problems (laughs)! My father was an architect. He passed away in 2020, but I chatted with him a bit about the building before he died. I also chatted with an architect, Ross Potter, who is the same generation as my dad. We talked about architecture in the 1970s and what it was like. And one of the thing he pointed out was that Humanities has a stone roof. You know, there are these overhangs. And if you need to repair it, then you need to pull all the stone off and repair the leaks and then put the stone back. And my father was like, “that might be a design flaw.” (laughs)

But I really like the building. It has so many open spaces. You know, I think the negative space in this building makes it what it is. There’s something about being up in the seventh floor in Humanities and looking down at the courtyard. Just the feeling of the location, you find yourself down looking up or up looking down or looking across. I’m just fascinated with the way the spaces are arranged.

I hear people say oh, I get lost, or it’s confusing, or whatever. And there’s definitely engineering issues. I was talking to another architect, and we discussed the fact that this building was created before the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. So there’s lavatories where you need to go up three steps to get into the bathroom, or there will be a little back entrance or something that’s the way to get in with a wheelchair. And don’t forget: the building was also created before the internet. So that’s all retrofitted, you know. There’s this utilitarian kind of feel to the building where a few extra wires running around, it’s just like of the aesthetics.

Doney: Yeah. Especially if you go up to the sixth or the seventh. It’s all in wire baskets running down the halls.

Haynes sketch of the Mosse Humanities Building

Haynes: And you know, it was also built before the oil crisis in the 1970s. So energy was cheap. The attitude must have been: it’s cold? The windows are thin and not that efficient? Just turn up the heat or whatever. So, to me, the whole building evokes a little bit of a different world. And you know, I guess my only judgment would be that we’ve got all these, we’re such a good engineering school, the engineers should be able to figure these issues out today! (laughs)

Doney: Yes. You know, the building was named after [George L. Mosse] after he had passed. But Mosse himself always called it the “Inhumanities Building.” So it’s kind of ironic that it came to have his name.

Haynes: Yeah.

Doney: You have a long-standing artistic interest in the Humanities Building. But how did you come to the idea to do the sketches? The hundred sketches of the building. Why 100, I guess?

Haynes: Oh. (laughs)

Doney: How did you make those determinations?

Haynes: So in 2020, MMSD went from in-person to virtual. I was Zooming to teach kids. And usually I would ride my bicycle through the arboretum to school and ride home on the southwest bike trail. That’s an eleven miles round-trip. And I’m not a terribly fast rider, which means that that represents an hour and a half of my day. (laughs) And not having that hour and a half of commute gave me time to do some art. And I was doing a painting every day. I started with still lifes in the safety of my home. But eventually I thought I could go downtown and I could paint something on campus. So I did some sketches on campus, including a few sketches of Humanities at that time.

Then my dad died in September, so I kind of took a break from doing that. But then after a couple of months, around November, I started drawing again through May, 2021. And those drawings became the State Street Adult Coloring Book.

Doney: I see.

Haynes: That got published in summer of 2021. And I spent about a year selling it, basically. We sold 1200 copies.

Doney: Good!

Haynes: It just felt like time well spent on an interesting project. So then, at some point I was deciding where to move next. And I did one sketch of Humanities. I started in 2020. I’d have to look it up to see exactly when the first one was. But anyway, I just, I started off just drawing, and I’m still doing it now.

Doney: In drawing these hundred sketches, do you have a favorite angle or view of the building?

Haynes: Hmm. Early on in the project, I went to Chadbourne up on the eleventh floor. And I got this really nice sketch of, you can kind of see, looking down on the building, which is probably one of my favorites.

Doug Haynes panoramic sketch of Humanities Building

Doney: The Humanities Building is a pretty controversial space. It tends to draw very positive or very negative reactions. And some people are eager to tear it down. What would you say to a Humanities Building skeptic to convince them that this is a place worth their attention?

Haynes: Well, I think in terms of the architecture, there’s nothing like it in this city. You could say anywhere, really. It’s a unique place. The fact that it’s in the center of campus probably is going to be its downfall. Because this is hot real estate. And somebody’s going to get a grand vision of how we can cram more students into a smaller space. And it will end up looking like Sellery Hall or something like that. Who knows? But I think the way the building has these open spaces and a variety of ways to look at the world has some inspiring value.

Doney: Yeah. You are also conducting an ongoing survey where people can share their thoughts on the building. What has been the most striking response?

Haynes: They’re very polarizing! Here’s one:

“There’s something about the endless halls and the odd placement of bathrooms that makes me think of the building as an old man. A little outdated, problematic, but lovable nonetheless.”

That one is actually, that’s one of my favorite quotes. (laughs)

Doney: Yeah. So it’s very—

Haynes: Very mixed. The most chosen response is “mixed feelings.”

Doney: Yeah, the building seems to excite strong reactions.

Haynes: Yes. I’ll share a few more of my favorite responses I’ve gotten from the survey:

“The practice rooms in the basement were rooms from hell. Some were exceedingly warm, and some were quite cold. The humidity varied a lot as well. Music majors had priority for the rooms, so it was hit or miss whether I could find one that would be comfortable. Trying to adjust the airflow from the small vents in the ceiling—when at times there was no airflow at all—was always a tricky proposition. Yet I still had friends who could work in those rooms for hours on end, working on the tiniest details in their music, no matter how high the temperature. They likely became successful professional musicians.”

“I’ll never forget the winter of 2000-2001 (snowmageddon). The massive piles of snow in the courtyard turned into a river that flowed through Strehlow lounge in the spring.”

“There’s a stairwell where people leave all types of messages and doodles in chalk or marker. It’s a time capsule in-of-itself. I have a friend who took her graduation photo there! My doodle from before we were sent home for quarantine my freshman year is still there and I like to see it and remind myself how much I’ve grown. I also believe the Comics Room on the sixth floor is the most magical place on campus.”

Humanities Building Flier

Doney: These are great. I also wanted to ask about where should people look for the book, your book of sketches?

Haynes: So, the website is


Haynes: Yes. The project isn’t finished yet. Like the State Street Adult Coloring Book. But the Humanities Building is not really that colorful. So I don’t see it ending up as coloring book like the other one.

Doney: Sort of fits the image, though, right? It’s stark. Black and white.

Haynes: Yeah. Get out your taupe crayon and color it. (laughs)

Doney: Make everything gray. Yeah, sure. What do you have planned next, once the Humanities project is complete?

Haynes: I have many other ideas percolating. The problem is that every book has to sell out, or at least make back the investment to move on. Otherwise, it all comes to a crashing halt.

Doney: I think the Humanities one has, I mean, there’s a strong public sentiment—

Haynes: There’s a built-in audience, right? Every, you know—

Doney: Every freshman class.

Haynes: Since what, ’68 or something, ’69? That’s a lot of people—

Doney: It is.

Haynes: —they have all gone through this place.

Doney:  Okay. Well, those were the questions I had. Thank you for your time!

Haynes:  Of course.

UW graduate and local Madison artist Doug E. L. Haynes







Doug E. L. Haynes

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