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Illinois Women Artists Project symposium at Bradley University will highlight feminism

Director of the Illinois Women Artists Project Kristan McKinsey
Kristan McKinsey, director of the Illinois Women Artists Project.

The Illinois Women Artists Project will host its 2023 symposium Oct. 19-21 on the campus of Bradley University, featuring works of art reflecting the theme of feminism.

After having to cancel the 2021 symposium due to COVID-19, the Illinois Women Artists Project will return with the sixth symposium, including both in-person and online performances.

Kristan McKinsey is director of the Illinois Women Artists Project. McKinsey said the project and the symposiums came from the work of Chandler “Channy” Lyons.

Channy Lyons was born in New York but moved to Chicago in the early 1950s. She made Peoria her home and earned a masters of art degree at Bradley. Lyons organized an exhibit of women artists in 2005, but ran into difficulties tracking down the names of many of the artists.

This exhibit and her struggles inspired Lyons to found the Illinois Women Artists Project and spearhead an effort to generate a database of Illinois-based women artists.

From her advocacy efforts, the Illinois Women Artists Project began hosting artist symposiums on the campus of Bradley University in collaboration with the Department of Art.

McKinsey said the symposiums are opportunities to tell the stories of women artists.

“Channy was marvelous in her ability to think broadly,” McKinsey said, “And so she approached Sarah Glover, now dean, Sarah Glover, here at Bradley about doing a symposium on Midwest women artists.”

McKinsey also said having their symposiums in Peoria is an attractive quality for artists all over the Midwest.

“The first symposium was so successful, we had people from all over the Midwest, and a lot of my colleagues and friends from Chicago were here. And when I said we should do it again, but should we do it in Chicago? They all said, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, it's great for us to get out of the city,” she said.

The 2023 symposium is titled Women’s Work: Feminist Women Artists in the Midwest. This will be the first symposium to feature a combination of online and in-person performances, with a keynote address on Oct. 19, four presentations and one performance on Oct. 20, and two presentations by Zoom on Oct. 21.

For more information on the symposium and the Illinois Women Artists Project, click here.

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Isabela Nieto is a student reporting intern at WCBU. Isabela is also a student at Bradley University in Peoria.