Columbia College Chicago Glass Curtain Gallery showcased the Where the Future Came From exhibit on February 12, featuring the president of the Chicago Women’s History Center, Mary Ann Johnson, as guest speaker. Johnson shared excerpts of interviews from female artists who were members of the Artemisia Gallery (now closed), a feminist collective founded in 1973. Decades later, the surviving members shared their memories and experiences.
Eleanor Boyer‘s Bonnie Bell: 10,000 Meter Race for Women was also shown, featuring interviews from competitors in one of the largest women’s sporting events of its time with 3,000 female runners. Johnson discussed award-winning book “Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary,” in collaboration with Chicago Women’s History Conference. Johnson said it was a “very involved process,” with 300 writers involved in covering biographies averaging about 7,000 words.
The exhibition, according to curator Meg Duguid, focuses on the role of feminist organizations and activities in Chicago from 1880 to now. “This exhibition looked at female-identified women and female-identified artists who organized to help amplify other female artists,” she said. “We want to talk about this information as much as possible to really nail down how this world works.” The exhibit took a year’s worth of research as Duguid and others looked into women’s activities throughout history and the support what they gave to each other. The curators emphasized that women’s contributions tend to quickly disappear, especially if they are women of color.
Duguid has some advice for women who are interested in curating and shedding light on history: Look everywhere, look at every event and every newspaper, talk to as many people as possible, get feedback on your work and put dates on everything.
Amazed that Duguid was able to organize everything, Johnson said, “It’s so impressive to see it all laid out together,” referring to the history of events and activities that women organized arranged chronologically on the exhibit wall.
Highlights of the timeline included The Palette Club (originally named the Bohemian Art Club), formed in 1880; a club that gained more than 70 members within a few years. Three Arts Club (1912-2003) was founded by 31 women, including Jane Addams. It supported and gave temporary housing to women painters, actors and musicians. A more recent organization was the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. W.I.T.C.H., starting in New York City in 1968. Chicago’s chapter continues to speak out about affordable housing, abortion rights and the Trump administration.
For budding activists, Johnson gives this advice, “Find something that interests you and pursue it. There’re so many issues that need work. And, there all issues we thought were solved such as reproductive rights. There are all kinds of things happening today.”
© Stephanie Taylor (2/19/19) FF2 Media