Department of Art Hosts Inland Visual Studies Symposium

April 30, 2013

The Inland Visual Studies Center’s motto of “local first and then global” resists the acceptance of progressive art as transcending place.  We prefer to look closely at the history of Midwest Art and Design as an antidote to subsisting on synthetic, hybrid styles and shallow content that poses as universal or pluralist. We resist thinking of art as an aesthetic buffet, from which we casually pick and choose, and whose collective display dilutes taste and places of origin.

This year we have five of the nation’s most influential and innovative artists (who just happen to live in the contiguous Midwest) coming to Bradley to do studio demonstrations, talk about their experience of art in the Midwest, screen a film about Midwest printmaking, (narrated by Susan Stamberg), and show their most recent artwork. The symposium starts on Thursday, April 4th, with a lecture by University of Kansas Curator Stephen Goddard and a reception of Book Arts work at Hartmann Gallery.

Friday begins with studio demonstrations with Julia Leonard from the University of Iowa’s Book Arts program and Karen Kunc, Printmaker from the University of Nebraska.  Both artists are nationally recognized professionals who choose to make work as “inland artists”.

The rest of the day includes the documentary, a panel discussion, and several stunning exhibition receptions and a closing speaker, Ken Botnick, book artist from Washington University, St. Louis. Lastly there is a reception at Backspace Gallery. (Symposium program is below. Call 677-2967 for details)

Because of a new internationalizing turn in fine art and popular culture, places like the American Midwest are often considered as ‘flyover zones”, rather than cultural destinations. What would happen if art research found patterns of visualization and elements of avant-garde art practice that overlapped with popular media, industrial design, film, and architecture in the Midwest?  Would there be a body of work that was as significant as the early 20th century where a corridor between the Gulf and the Great Lakes produced American Modernist architecture and American popular music? How did practices like Printmaking, Publishing, Prairie School Architecture, graphic design, high rise construction, American industrial design, all Midwest traditions that became indelibly identified with the U.S., resonate only in the histories of specific academic disciplines? If the education of artists is largely about the depth as well as the breadth of representation, then why don’t we respond more positively to visual legacies of the nation’s other cultural zones?

Midwest borders are cultural rather than natural, and there are many Midwests within that perimeter.  If the Midwest is and always has been a work in progress, then it cannot succumb to simple stereotypes like “common”, “inflexible” or “unintellectual”. The U.S. has multiple regions, each struggling to project an identity onto a national stage. The media would prefer to package art and design as “monoculture” because it is an efficient strategy for promoting artworks like commercial products that are inexpensive, easily consumable and have short shelf-lives. As a result we are left with a uniform, fashion-conscious art that simulates culture for all America but really appeals to the most average entertainment desires of passive consumers.

These issues, and a celebration of local art and design, are the reasons for the Inland Center’s yearly symposiums, lectures and exhibitions. This year the symposium focuses on Printmaking and Artists Books - two mediums that have long traditions in the central U.S., mediums that are accessible, affordable, and an answer to those who say that fine art is too elitist and out of touch with the mainstream.

Just as Blues and Jazz traveled the Mississippi corridor to transform American sound space, the City Beautiful, the Prairie School, and a revamped Inland American Bauhaus plotted much of the same landscape and transformed America’s visual space. These creative models of production in the Heartland are our inheritance and have influenced the way we think and see and are the result of a robust, grass roots work ethic that is widely known as American ingenuity.

Inland Center Mission

  • Theorizing Midwest visual traditions
  • Creating an alternative to modern culture that distances itself from geographical traditions.
  • Finding metaphors that emerge from rural and suburban life. i.e. the garden, landscape horizontality, mobility,  etc.
  • Chronicling inland culture as both the inventor of new form and language and the re-formulator of pre-existing culture.
  • Re-discovering genealogies of inland visual culture.
  • Acknowledging a fractal network of cultures.
  • Seeking Inland Culture dwelling in the practices that have not been under surveillance of the modern.
  • Resisting being subsumed by globalism.

Symposium program…


5:00pm-6:00pm: Keynote Address, Stephen Goddard, Horowitz
Auditorium, Caterpillar Global Communications Center
6:00-8:30pm : Hartmann Gallery Reception for “Bookness”, Artist Book
Exhibition with Ken Botnick, Karen Kunc, and Julia Leonard


9:30am :  Print Demos: Karen Kunc , Heuser Art Center, Room 312

9:30am : Book Arts Demo: Julie Leonard, Heuser Art Center, Room 203

(Both print and book demos will occur simultaneously and be repeated in half hour segments so that all attendants may observe).
11:00am : Film, “Midwest Matrix” introduced by director Susan Goldman, 130 Westlake Hall
12:15pm : Lunch break and review of the Bradley International, Heuser Art Gallery.

(The Student Center has a cafeteria with popular restaurants and the immediate neighborhood has local eateries  within a block of campus). 

2:00pm : Panel Discussion. Paul Krainak (moderator), Susan Goldman, Karen Kunc, Julie Leonard, Regin Igloria, 116 Westlake Hall
5:00pm : Closing Lecture, Ken Botnick, Horowitz Auditorium, Caterpillar
Global Communications Center.
6:00pm : Backspace Reception for “Endpapers” Artist Book exhibition juried by
Regin Igloria.

To follow the article in the Sunday, March 31, 2013 Peoria Journal Star