Women’s Caucus for Art

Above: “Flora” by Karen Wilcox
Below: “Woman on Fire” by Ellen Schillace

“Purpose-driven art is art for the common good. It has an ulterior motive to make a difference in society and in people’s lives.”
– Ellen Schillace”It started really with activism – artists in an activist role,” says Ellen Schillace, president of the Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA), Minnesota branch.


With a mission to create community through art, education and social activism, the Minnesota WCA was created in the mid-1980s. The local branch values diversity, similar to the New York City-based national organization, founded in 1972. Its members have a connection to art, but they are not all artists. Art historians, educators, students, museum professionals and art critics are among their circle.

According to Schillace and Karen Wilcox, local WCA leaders, the goal is to heighten cultural recognition of women’s contributions in the arts. The organization seeks ways to provide leadership opportunities and professional development, and to expand networking and exhibition opportunities for women, as well as to engage the public with issues-oriented art that prompts questions.

“The purpose of the organization is to raise consciousness and provide different perspectives through our art that will impact people’s ideas, thoughts and even behavior,” says Wilcox, WCA’s communications manager. “Purpose-driven art is art for the common good. It has an ulterior motive to make a difference in society and in people’s lives,” Schillace adds.

Mission on display

WCA exhibitions are focused on issues of the day. In 2010, the WCA worked with the University of Minnesota’s Katherine Nash Gallery to showcase art on the theme of “Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration,” giving voice to the environmental concerns of a dwindling fresh water supply and its global impact on women’s lives.

In January 2016, their focus will be on feminism. In collaboration with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), the WCA has invited 22 Minnesota women artists to participate in an exhibition called “Stepping Back, Looking Forward: Honoring Feminist Vision.”

“It’s not connected to age, it’s more about the ways in which you see something, your approach to art,” Schillace says. Some of the artists have created new work for the exhibit. Some artwork speaks to a historical chronology of feminism in Minnesota. There will be conceptual pieces, interactive spaces, sculptures, installations, video and paintings representing second, third and fourth wave thinking.

What’s exciting for Wilcox, a key organizer of the exhibit, is the wide spectrum of art and art practices on display. She hopes the exhibition will “initiate some dialogue between multiple generations of feminist artists, giving a cross pollination of perspectives of art, issues, gender, sexuality, race and equality,” she says.

To broaden the conversation, MCAD will host an open discussion titled “The Death of Feminism, Revelations of the Third Wave” on Sunday afternoon, January 24.

“Women have continuously worked to achieve positive, lasting impact on the community through their work, their activism, education, mentoring, working as role models. The exhibit is as much about their practice as their art. And,” Wilcox says, “introducing what’s coming next, younger women’s voices and what they have to say about feminism and their experiences.”

FFI: Woman’s Caucus for Art, wcamn.com