Some days back I attended a very interesting lecture series at Chicago Cultural Center “Women Sculptors of Chicago – Not for Men Only.” Each of the 11 participating woman sculptors have carved their place in a male dominated profession, and were sharing their experiences in a lively, fun, interactive discussion, which was very educational as well. As much as I enjoyed the series, I was intrigued by the group that organized the talk series – the Education Committee – of Chicago Sculpture International [CSI].
I wanted to learn more about the Education Committee, its objectives, activities and future plans.. so I requested Education Chair Jill King, if I could meet with them and ask a few questions. She consulted other members, and they all agreed. On June 21, 2016, we sat down at Terry Karpowicz Studio and had a very productive small conversation.
But first, what is CSI?
Chicago Sculpture International [CSI] brings sculpture to the community and promotes a community for sculpture and sculptors. It is a 501(c) (3) membership organization established in 2004 devoted to championing sculptors and the creation of sculpture. Its members seek to expand the understanding and appreciation of sculpture through exhibits, workshops, and collaborations.
Check out CSI website.. click here..
The above image is of the three-member Education Committee of CSI – Jill King, Victoria Fuller and Janet Austin – as we sat down for a small talk at the Karpowicz Studio.
How did the Education Committee come about?
CSI was formed way back in 2004, but the Education Committee was established not long ago in the winter of 2015. Jill King explained that the idea came up in one of the Board meetings. She took up the challenge as she has been teaching for the past 28 years. “In one of our General Membership Meeting, Janet and Victoria volunteered to be in it. They have helped make a lot happen.”
What is the mission?
The Education Committee aims at sharing the professional sculptural expertise of its members in schools and organizations in need to exposure to public art. Not only does the Committee has a vigorous outreach program, it also promotes educational activities among its own members, with well tailored programs designed to meet the specific needs of sculptors, like helping them develop the fabrication techniques, and also honing their strategic marketing skills. So there is a two-part component of the committee: educating the community, as well empowering its own members; through events like talks, demonstrations and workshops.
What are the type of events organized by Education Committee?
The very first event was the “Creative Capital Educational Workshop” in March 2015. Creative Capital is a New York based non-profit organization that provides financial support to artists pursuing adventurous projects. The workshop aimed at promoting key business and marketing skills. Topics included business management, goal setting, communications and negotiation. The cost of attending was $35 for members and $45 for non-members. The workshop leader was Colleen Keegan, a partner in Keegan Fowler Companies, an equity investment and consulting firm specializing in promoting strategic planning and business affairs services to companies in communication and entertainment industries. “She was a pro, a go-getter”, explained Jill King. “About 60 people attended the course. We had participants not only from CSI, but also outside of CSI.” One interesting term was “elevator pitch”, that is how to talk about the work, in a few seconds you might get with a person in an elevator. I thought that was a very impressive skill to have!
Janet Austin talked about the next event, “a Welding Workshop for learning, or refreshing the MIG and TIG welding techniques. It was a very successful event”. This was in July 2015. A one day, three hour workshop at Charles Yost Studio. The fee was $40 for CSI-members and $80 for non-members. Training included welding various types of joints – Butt joint, Corner joint, Lap joint, Edge joint, and T joint. This workshop was about learning fabrication techniques, much different from the earlier strategic marketing techniques, and any sculptor knows the importance of both types of skills.
The next event was a community outreach program, during Chicago Artist Month in October 2015. It was a lecture series presented at Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center [CIADC], and at four branches of Chicago Public Library. There were 18 speakers in all. “Many of us were talking about our work for the first time,” explained Jill King.” It was a new experience. We prepared power-point presentations. Some brought physical small pieces, and some brought materials to demonstrate how they created their work. It was the first time we did something like this”!
Perhaps the most coveted event presented by the Education Committee was the five-part lecture series at Chicago Cultural Center on women sculptors of Chicago. The event was part of Chicago’s DCASE Studio Artist and Curatorial Residency Award. “It was Victoria’s idea”, Janet pointed out. “We looked at it. The application was intense. Very complicated. We filled it out. We got it. Part of the reason we got it was because CSI was proving its value to the community. CSI has such a long history of doing such amazing things, including the lecture series during the Chicago Artist Month. We were able to talk about it as our outreach program. Lot of it was about proving our worth and our value to the community.”
Victoria then explained how she came to know about it.. “I called the Cultural Center and said that we were sculptors, and would like to give some talks. Is there any opportunity were we could talk about Public Art? They said there is this opportunity, which is for organizations. You should apply”. This is how the Education Committee won the DCASE Artist Residency Award. The result was presentation of the five-part lecture series:“Women Sculptors of Chicago – Not for Men Only”. There were 11 speakers, and all of them were [and are] members of Chicago Sculpture International. Each of the talk was attended by about 60 people.
“It was a scary and nerve wrecking experience for most of us. We don’t have public speaking skills. We work in our studios. We are very isolated. It was a good experience. We learned from it”, said Jill King.
This is the event that got me interested in learning about the Education Committee of CSI. I am not a sculptor and don’t intend to be. But still there were so many takeaways. Sculptors conceive an idea, and work towards figuring out how to bring it to fruition. Sometimes there is no precedence and they have to carve their own way. Each one chartered their own course. This is one powerful lesson for me! Also, I would say that learning about the effort that goes into making of sculptures, makes me appreciate the art a lot more!
I am sure other members of the audience found their own personal inspirations in the stories shared by the artists.
In future the Education Committee may take up talks in colleges and universities.
The Education Committee is less then two years old, and have already bagged quite a few achievements. The committee has organized some remarkable workshops and talk series. My interview with them reveals that the committee members have their own skill set, and they are quite open to the idea of learning-as-they-go! The future is wide open to exploring, assimilating and sharing.. with their own CSI members and to the outside community. They are not only meeting with “art-loving” community, but also creating one.. that understands and appreciates art, and the effort that goes into making it!
Congratulations on the achievements and Best Wishes for future endeavors!