Women's Art Institute asks how to cultivate creative energy

Women's Art Institute asks how to cultivate creative energy
Courtesy St. Catherine University
This weekend, the Women's Art Institute, a four-week intensive studio program at St. Catherine University, will showcase work by 20 female artists. The Institute was founded by Elizabeth Erickson at MCAD in 1999, and has been co-taught with Erickson and Patricia Olson every year except 2012, when the two artists took a year off to write a book about WAI. Upon Erickson's retirement from MCAD, the program moved to St. Kate's this year. Curated by WAI participants Kathryn Van Zante and Justine Di Fiore, "Fearless Creative Energy: WAI '13 Exhibition" features work in numerous mediums by artists responding to the question: "How can I cultivate fearless creative energy in my studio practice?"

We caught up with curator Justine di Fiore to tell us about her experience with the program and putting the show together.

How did you get involved with WAI? 

Justine di Fiore: I got involved because I felt that I needed something to help me sharpen my focus, and assist me in answering some questions I had about where I was going with my artistic practice. I have been out of school for a while, and felt a strong desire to be in more deliberate dialogue with other artists about all this art-making business. I was aware of the important mark that the two instructors, Elizabeth Erickson and Patricia Olson, have had and are making on the local arts community. I thought that this, coupled with a month away from work, would be a golden combination. 

Why is WAI important to you? 

The idea of a program with a feminist bent was not the initial draw for me. Although I do consider myself to be a proud feminist, I do not identify as a feminist artist. That said, by the end of the month I did feel a stronger sense of connection with a lineage of women artists, and a deeper understanding of how the female gaze and the Feminist Art Movement of the '70s contributed to the evolution of Post Modernism in visual art, and that Minneapolis via WARM was right on the map with New York and LA during that explosion of activity in the '70s. 

How did Kathryn Van Zante and yourself go about curating the show? 

Some really tight bonds, in addition to some really great art, grew out of the month of June at St. Kate's. In fact, I would not hesitate to say that we were left with the sense that we had become a new sort of family. The WAI pop-up show grew out of a desire to share the energy and the work with the public. The show represents what Katie Van Zante, my co-curator and fellow WAI '13 participant, and I saw as some of the strongest work coming out of the WAI '13.

It also features work by our TAs, Anna Garski and Dakota Hoska, and our instructors, nationally known artists Patricia Olson and Elizabeth Erickson. I don't know that there is a clearly evident thematic link in the show, but I would say that the intense group discussions, facilitated by Pat and Elizabeth, that involved distilling important questions we each had about art and art making, brought us each individually closer to a more authentic practice. If anything, the search for authenticity is the glimmer of a thread that runs through the show as a whole.

Could you say anything about a few of the artists being showcased?

This show features work made by Fatin Al Jumaily, an artist from Karbala, Iraq, whose trip to the U.S. was facilitated and sponsored by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. Her work deals with the pride and pain she feels for her country as she navigates through life, events, and dangerous times from the perspective of an Iraqi woman. Her unique vision is unfortunately a perspective that we as Americans do not have easy access to. Her work is very important. 

Also of note is the work of Indiana-based textile artist Diane Hammill. Her work grew out of a strong background in traditional quilting and needlework. At the WAI, things really exploded for her as the skill of her craft merged with her desire to make poetic images wrought with raw emotion and personal content. Neither Fatin nor Diane will be able to attend the opening for obvious reasons of distance, but we are lucky to be able to show some of there work.


"Fearless Creative Energy: WAI '13 Exhibition"
Opening reception
5-8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27
MCAD Whittier Gallery
2880 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis.
(Additional parking 2845 Harriet Ave.)
Use Current Location

Related Location

MCAD Whittier Studios

2840 Grand Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >