Bringing the Illinois Women Artists Project into Bradley

Kristan H. McKinsey, Director of the Illinois Women Artists Project (IWA)

September 15, 2016

Kristan H. McKinsey named Director of the Illinois Women Artists Project at Bradley University

Gary Will, Chairman of the Bradley University Art Department, is pleased to recognize National Arts Education Week (September 11 – 17, 2016) by announcing that Kristan H. McKinsey has been appointed Director of the Illinois Women Artists Project (IWA), a unique initiative to discover and document the lives and work of women artists in Illinois through research, an on-line database and teaching resources, exhibits, symposia and other avenues. Founded and previously run independently by Channy Lyons, the IWA now has its administrative base within  the Art Department at Bradley University.

McKinsey retired September 2 as Curator of Peoria Riverfront Museum (PRM) after more than 20 years with PRM and its predecessor, Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, during which time she curated 50 exhibitions and coordinated more than two dozen others, saw the permanent collection more than double in size and professionalized the collection management policies and procedures. A graduate of Swarthmore College with a BA in Art History with a Concentration in Asian Studies, McKinsey received her MA in Early American Culture from the Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware. She began her professional career at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1984, where she completed the planning and installation of new decorative arts galleries and period rooms; she held the position of Curator of the Evanston (IL) Historical Society for five years. In addition to her experience organizing exhibitions, researching and writing exhibit catalogs, and lecturing on a variety of topics, McKinsey brings extensive editing and publishing experience, including eight years as Editor of the Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine

Lyons, a Peoria-area historian, author and curator, founded the IWA a decade ago as a place where research on female artists living and working in Illinois, especially prior to World War II, could be collected and shared with researchers and the general public.  Women artists who had been forgotten by time for various reasons were of particular interest at the Project’s inception, but all women who aspired to be professional artists are eligible for inclusion and the period of focus has since been expanded into the 1980s. Lyons created an on-line database, hosted by Bradley University, with biographical information on more than 450 women and extensive resources for art, history and social science teachers as well as scholars and amateur researchers (  She has coordinated research efforts with gender studies programs at several central Illinois colleges and universities.        

The IWA extends well beyond the website.  Lyons has guest-curated two ground-breaking exhibitions of artwork by Illinois women artists, both documented on the website: Skirting Convention: Illinois Women Artists, 1840-1940 hosted by Lakeview Museum in 2011 and Making Their Mark: Illinois Women Artists, 1940-1960 at Peoria Riverfront Museum in 2015.

 With the assistance of Dr. Sarah Glover, Associate Professor of Art History at BU, Lyons has organized 3 biannual symposia on the Bradley University campus in the past five years.  Nationally-recognized scholars and artists have served as keynote speakers and panelists for the symposia, providing attendees from across the Midwest an opportunity to share on-going research, discuss current scholarships and network with colleagues. The IWA has offered the symposia free to attendees through the support of the Art Department, the Alumni Center, the Women Studies Program, and the Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee; funding has come, in part, through grants from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly.

  • Lyons has encouraged Peoria area galleries and other venues to host exhibitions of artwork by women artists as a city-wide celebration concurrent with the symposia. She has made presentations about women artists at area organizations such as the Peoria Women’s Club and provided course offerings for Bradley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Bradley University, will provide the Illinois Women Artists Project the opportunity to extend its impact even further and build upon Lyons’ success in creating a much-needed process for research and documentation. It is expected that the project will continue to find new ways to reach the public, continue to collaborate on relevant programming, make additional contributions to scholarships and serve as a model for similar projects in other states.

 For more information, contact:

Kristan H. McKinsey, Director at or 309-677-2860
Gary Will, Chairperson, Department of Art at or 309-677-2967