Chapter Report

Women’s Caucus for Art, Minnesota Chapter
2014 President’s Report
Ellen Schillace

January 25, 2015

Dear Members and Friends:The Minnesota Chapter has achieved a level of accomplishment in keeping alive its commitment to “art as the universal language to engage artists, NGOS, and civil society on a broad range of issues such as gender equity and environmental sustainability.” (www.nationalwca.org) Since the National Women’s Caucus for Art has recently expanded its international focus and co-sponsored exhibitions in Korea and China as an NGO (non-governmental organization) of the United Nations and the fact that the Women’s Caucus for Art actively supports the U.N. Millennium Goals, the Minnesota Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art has had a noteworthy year.This year our Chapter pulled together a remarkable group of artists and art leaders willing to commit to a vision of women artists making a difference for social change. Artists and leaders committed to a mission “to create community through art, education, and social activism.” Many artists are attracted to WCA because of the organization’s national focus and its “unique multidisciplinary, multicultural membership of artists, art historians, students, educators, and museum professionals.” Women of all professions who are interested and committed to the arts are able to be involved, to be heard, and participate in making an important difference in our society, in addition to the world of art.Throughout 2014 the Minnesota WCA established goals to change focus and assess priorities. Our Chapter began a critical discussion about defining the artist’s role in today’s society in 2012 which continues to evolve today. The manifestation of these characteristics can be as diverse as there are artists: artist as change maker, healer, and activist, aesthetic. Most importantly, the artist strives for an authentic voice. Women artists want to make a difference and want to be heard; people want to hear what women artists have to say. And the bottom line is that they need to be acknowledged and valued in tangible ways that support them.As Chapter President and having lived the life an artist, as most artists do, in the two worlds of dollars and “sense”, early on I realized the necessity to reevaluate how artists would be compensated for their participation in a volunteer organization and in putting together exhibitions for the greater good. I posed the question, “How can artists continue to work in an arena where resources are being devoured and time and money are dwindling commodities?” How can we ask our members to devote the hundreds of hours required to produce a major exhibit without monetary compensation? How can we expect our members to continue to even produce their art when they are often exhausted from juggling jobs, family, and community obligations? How can we fulfill a desire to make a difference and experience a level of purpose – something that we know is an inherent role that artists, if they are able to with support, are willing to do. How can we ask volunteers of women to step forward in an obvious age of record disparity (of which women are outpacing everyone in numbers) to support our efforts with no acknowledgement of their value and time?
The process of envisioning a project for the Minnesota WCA that would focus on women and money was born out of incredible feedback from other artists and other women who cannot always be at the table to voice their opinions and struggles with economic issues of the day. The focus of the exhibition which is women’s relationship with money does not leave out the backdrop of gender gaps, discrimination, or historical institutional and societal inequalities that shape women’s struggle with money and the hierarchies that frame the dialogue around it. In addition and most importantly was to set a precedent: participants and volunteers would be paid for their work. Due to the overwhelming success in 2010 of the Minnesota WCA exhibit “Women and Water Rights” at the University of Minnesota we met meeting with Gallery Director Howard Oransky. Thanks to the support of the University of Minnesota and Mr. Oransky, the exhibition “Women and Money” is slated for September 2016 https://art.umn.edu/nash/press/women-money. We are fortunate to have the expertise of Lyndel King, Director of the Weisman Museum of Art as our juror and the exhibition will be co-curated by long time WCA member Elizabeth Dodson and Minnesota WCA President Ellen Schillace.

In December the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom contributed a startup fund directed to the University of Minnesota Foundation for Women and Money. The steering committee for this project is comprised of both artists and non-artists and this committee continues to work on fundraising and related events which will provide both pre-exhibition and exhibition activities which include films, programs, panels and workshops around the theme of WOMEN AND MONEY. www.thewomenandmoneyproject.org

Minnesota WCA is also collaborating with the Women’s Environmental Institute and other organizations to co-sponsor Conversation E II “Sustainable Acts: Mother Earth’s Embrace” (SAMEE) http://greenarttogetherevolving.virb.com. Curator and developer: University of Minnesota Art History Professor and WCAMN member Roslye Ultan who has a deeper vision of combining the arts with science.

“Stepping Back, Looking Forward: Honoring Feminist Vision” (January 19 – February 7, 2016) is an invitational exhibition organized by the Minnesota WCA and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) for the Guerrilla Girls project. The WCAMN curatorial committee is working with Kerry Morgan, MCAD Gallery Director to select twenty Chapter members for this exhibition that presents a chronological view of feminist art and activism in the Twin Cities.

In summary, in 2014 the Minnesota Chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art focused on organizing and developing three major projects. Several new and current members stepped up to fill the vital roles of managing exhibitions, membership, social media, and communications. We want to thank, Meng Tang, Laurel O’Gorman and Meena Mangalvedhekar and Barbara Bridges for their contributions. We also welcome our new Membership Chair, Jennifer Wren Supak and Website Manager, Carolina Borja.

All this has evolved over a period of two years of work by a few dedicated members and has evolved to a wonderful team dedicated to keep the all-embracing vision of our organization. During this time, I cannot leave out the incredible gifts of one artist, Karen Wilcox, talented in both her artistic contribution and her ability to manage communication at all levels of the organization. She has put countless hours in to our chapter. Her integrity is impeccable and she has the ability to create organization wherever there is chaos.

An organization does not function without the skills of a few dedicated people. It does not grow without the contribution of all members whose gifts are unique and essential for the organization to move forward, become whole and step into the process of changing our world.

In gratitude and peace

Ellen Schillace
President, Minnesota Chapter
Women’s Caucus for Art