Transforming Midwest Culture and Society: Women Artists, 1960s to 1980s


NOVEMBER 2 & 3, 2017

The interdisciplinary symposium will explore the art, life experiences and legacies of Midwest women artists working from the 1960s into the 1980s. Anyone interested in women of those decades and their connection to today's artists and to the future of women in the arts will want to attend. We hope everyone will leave the symposium having learned something new and actionable.

Midwestern artists were aware of artistic currents in New York City and on the West Coast, but often took a different path. They have been largely left out of the scholarship on American art, and this symposium draws attention to these women to fill in the gaps in that scholarship. The 1960s and 1970s were a period of great cultural, political, economic and technological change in the United States, and many artists used their creative skills and activities to help shape society. Civil rights, women's rights, environmental concerns and the war in Vietnam were the central issues of the day.

The presentations and discussions will focus on the impact of MIdwestern women artists on their communities through organizations they formed to exhibit and promote their creative activities, the social issues they addressed in their work and how it transformed their communities, and the media in which they chose to work as well as their subject matter. It will consider how art critics responded to their art, and how they saw themselves fitting into the professional world of artists.

Join historians, artists, writers, students, collectors and instructors in November 2017 for conversations and presentations.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Midwest Women Artists, 1960s to 1980s: A Stir of Voices

Lynne Warren, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

With the recent, long-overdue embrace of artists who emerged and achieved regional reputations in the Midwest in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, it seems important to re-examine the circumstances of being a locally known – and female—artist as the art world developed during those decades. And while the minimalist, male-dominated aesthetic of the 1960s gave way to what was dubbed pluralism in the 1970s, allowing for a greater range of expression, many Midwestern women artists continued to struggle to be heard. Warren will present several case studies of Chicago-based artists, and contrast their experiences with those of their New York and California peers, with the view of locating lessons for today’s emerging women artists.

We were very pleased to welcome Lynne Warren as our keynote speaker. Warren has been Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago for more than three decades. She has specialized in monographic exhibitions, often highlighting artists with a significant relationship to Chicago, and has amassed expertise in the area of Chicago history from 1945 to the present, with an emphasis on artists of the 1960s to the 1990s, as well as expertise in the field of photography. Her solo exhibitions, which often produced the first monograph on the artist, include Kenneth Josephson (1982); Donald Sultan (1987); Robert Heinecken: Photographist (1999); Dan Peterman: Plastic Economies (2004); Chris Ware (2005); and Jim Nutt: Coming Into Character (2011). She has also specialized in exhibitions producing major scholarship, including the nationally traveling Alexander Calder: Form, Balance, Joy (2010) which reexamined Calder’s significance in light of a new generation of artists inspired by his art.

In addition to authoring more than 40 exhibition catalogs on Chicago artists, history and alternative spaces, including Art in Chicago, 1945-1995, Warren is a contributor to The Essential New Art Examiner, Northern Illinois Press (2011); the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Newberry Library and the University of Chicago (2004); the Groves Dictionaries Dictionary of Art (1995); Masterpieces of 20th Century Art, The Art Institute of Chicago (1988), and is the editor of the three-volume reference, The Encyclopedia of 20th Century Photography published by Taylor and Francis (2005). She has taught courses at the University of Chicago, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, and The University of Illinois at Chicago, and has lectured throughout the United States.

PANEL DISCUSSION: Social and Cultural Impact of Women Artists

The discussion will focus on organizations women artists formed to exhibit their work, their leadership roles, and their artistic response to social issues of the time.

Christine Rojek, with Arlene Turner Crawford, Joanna Gardner-Huggett, Lindsay Lochman and Fern Shaffer

Panel leader Christine Rojek specializes in public sculpture and uses the tenets of fine design to create interactive environments that appeal to a wide audience. Her installations can be provocative, theatrical or whimsical, and have become destination pieces in more than 25 locations throughout the United States. Rojek earned a BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and continued her studies at the American School of Art in Fontainebleau, France where she focused on both performance and installation art. Rojek has received widespread recognition for her achievements, including several fellowship grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and an AT&T Technology in Art Grant. When she is not creating sculpture, Rojek teaches at Columbia College Chicago and is the co-founder of SculpTours, an exhibition and touring company that promotes the appreciation and advancement of sculpture in Chicago.

PANEL DISCUSSION: New Directions and Ideas of Women Artists

The panel will discuss the media in which women artists chose to work as well as their choice of subject matter.

Panel leader Jane Gilmor is an intermedia artist and Emerita Professor of Art at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has a BS from Iowa State University, an MAT and MFA from the University of Iowa and did additional graduate work at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jane GIlmor, with Barbara Ciurej, Jane Stevens and Sandra Menefee Taylor

In 2012 A.I.R. Gallery in New York published her career monograph, Jane Gilmor: I’ll Be Back for the Cat by art historian Joy Sperling. Gilmor has exhibited nationally and internationally for the past 35 years and was one of five artists nationally honored in 2011 with a Tanne Foundation Award. She has received two NEA Visual Artist Fellowships, a McKnight Fellowship, and residency fellowships in Ireland, Italy, London and at The MacDowell Colony. Solo exhibitions include (Un)Seen Work at the Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell, Iowa in 2010, The Architecture of Migration: I’ll be back for the Cat at Long Island University, Brooklyn in 2009, and Blind at A.I.R. Gallery in New York in 2005. In 2010 she completed a year-long community based project and major installation, Un (Seen) Work, funded by an NEA grant to Grinnell College for the exhibition Culturing Community curated by Lesley Wright.

Gilmor is included in numerous books including Barbara Love’s Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1976; Lucy Lippard’s OVERLAY, Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory; and Broude and Gerrard’s The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970’s, History and Impact. Her work has been reviewed in numerous journals including The New York Times, The New Art Examiner, and The Chicago Tribune.

Gilmor has been affiliated with A.I.R Gallery in New York since 1985 and Olson Larsen Galleries in Des Moines since 1995.


The panel will discuss how art critics responded to the work of women artists as well has the artists sought critical recognition.

Barbara Jaffee, with Susan Snodgrass and Freida High W. Tesfagiorgis; Joanna Frueh joining via Skype

Panel leader Barbara Jaffee joined the faculty of the School of Art at Northern Illinois University in 1999. She teaches courses in modern and contemporary European and American art, museology, and art theory and criticism. Before arriving at NIU, she taught studio art and art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Professor Jaffee’s research interests focus on the critical discourse and institutional framework within which modern art developed, particularly in the United States. Her work includes systemic analysis of art worlds, the dynamic of self-promotion within artists’ groups, emergence of artistic canons, and the relationship between modern art and industrialism.

For the daily schedule and information on parking and a campus map, visit Schedule; to register, visit Registration.

The Symposium is organized by the Art Department of Bradley University and the Illinois Women Artists Project; it is co-sponsored by the University's Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee.

The Midwest Women Artists Symposium is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

This program has been made possible by a grant from the Eugene & Harriet Swager Fund for Public Art and the Taylor & Corinne French Fund/Fine Arts.