Keynote Speaker – Justine Nagen

Clifton Meador and Preston jackson

Paul Krainak, Justine Nagen, Buzz Spector, Patricia Olynyk, Clifton Meador, Preston Jackson


PANEL INTRO: Paul Krainak

The cannon of modern art continues to have an enormous influence on how we teach art history and studio practices even as progressive teachers and artists have insisted that we be more inclusive with the telling of that story. Art that has been informed by race, gender and national origin, for example, has made some strides in terms of institutional representation in the last two decades. A continuing problem for many communities in the U.S. is that our most powerful cultural institutions are still not fully representative of place. Major museums still represent only an approved number of non-mainstream artists and alternative media but the selections tend to be dominated by an inward looking culture industry of the East and West Coast. Most artist and designers are not interested in whining about being overlooked, despite a history of the Midwest being pictured as culturally toneless and neutral. For many its icons remain industrial and agricultural and for many Midwest curators and collectors culture is something one imports or travels to find.

But this is not true just in the Midwest. The country is made up of several cultural zones that have different traditions and incentives than the powerful collaborative network of museums like MoMA, the Getty and Guggenheim. But we live and work in the Midwest and our Center and this symposium is about us, our place, our history as artists, filmmakers, graphic designers, architects, etc. in short our identity or identities.

The Inland Visual Studies Center is the only academic center in the US that is devoted to the study of visual culture in one specific cultural zone. Our original concerns of seeking patterns of visualization between Fine Art traditions of the Midwest and the practices of image production in popular media, industrial design, and architecture remain at the center of interest. So too the history of educational and cultural institutions that have nurtured and documented visual traditions of the Midwest and produced our artists and scholars. This is one reason we are excited about our continued scholastic collaboration with Washington University in St. Louis who shares our commitment to the Centers mission. The center is also pleased about having the opportunity to reach out to institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College, and last year to the University of Illinois, the Illinois Institute of technology, and Ohio State University who’s participation enhances the understanding of studio curriculum and academic mentorship in a review of place-based culture.

Buzz Spector is Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.
He is an artist and critical writer whose artwork has been the focus of exhibitions in such
museums and galleries as the Art Institute of Chicago, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA, and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI. Spector’s work makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and object, and is concerned with relationships between public history, individual memory, and perception. Mr. Spector has written extensively on topics in contemporary art and culture, and has contributed reviews and essays to a number of publications, including American Craft, Artforum, Art on Paper, Dialogue, Exposure, New Art Examiner, and Visions. He is the author of The Book Maker’s Desire, critical essays on topics in contemporary art and artists’ books.

Justine Nagan is Kartemquin Films’ Executive Director. She recently directed “Typeface”, a documentary on American typography and graphic design, which she will speak about this afternoon and which we will be screening this evening at 8:30. Ms. Nagan explains that “Typeface was born out of an interest in design and visual culture, a love of the Midwest and the desire to make a meaningful social-issue documentary that was also a work of art.”

Her documentary considers the gap between analog media and digital media and issues of preservation and the loss of craft and its consequences in a real place. Formerly Ms. Nagan worked as the Kartemquin’s Director of Communications & Distribution and as the Associate Producer on a Peabody-Award winning, stem cell documentary “Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita”, which was broadcast nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens in early 2008. She has a Master’s Degree in the Humanities with an emphasis on Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago.

Preston Jackson is the Inland Visual Studies Artist-in-Residence at Bradley University and a Professor Emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He was the head of the figurative sculpture area at SAIC and also has served as chair of their Sculpture Department. Jackson also is a founder of the Center for Contemporary Art in Peoria. His sculpture addresses the subject of history in individual narratives whose lives are critical to the nation’s diverse history. His latest series, “Fresh from Julieanne´s Garden”, reveals the lives and personalities of his ancestors and the stories of our forbears who lived in the Southern United States in the 19th and early 20th century. Preston was recently awarded a Regional Emmy for hosting a televison progran about his work titled “Legacy in Bronze. Preston was also selected a 1998 Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois

Patricia Olynyk is the Director of the Graduate School of Art and the Florence and Frank Bush Professor of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis, Missouri. She was a Monbusho Scholar and Tokyu Foundation Research Scholar at Kyoto Seika University in Japan for four years. Her work has been shown internationally in exhibitions that include the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C.; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; Denise Bibro Gallery in New York; Galleria Grafica in Tokyo; Toby Moss Gallery in Los Angeles; the American University in Cairo; Galerie Michele Broutta in Paris; the Saitama Modern Art Museum. Olynyk’s prints and installations frequently employ microscopy and biomedical imaging technologies to explore the intersections between art and the life sciences.

Clifton Meador is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Book & Paper program at Columbia College. He is an artist whose recent work combines photography, writing, printmaking, and design to explore history, narrative, and place. He is a two-time recipient of a NYFA fellowship and a Fulbright Scholar. His work is in numerous collections of book art, including the Library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, and the Yale Art of the Book collection. Before coming to Columbia College Chicago in 2005, he was an associate professor of design at SUNY New Paltz.

Joanna Drucker writes that “Few book artists have had as extensive and creative a dialogue with the codex as a dynamically structured space as Meador has over the last twenty-five years.


Remoteness, climate and industry have colluded to keep Inland Art & Design theory on the back burner but it has not affected actual productivity. If the geography is key to the visual identity of the Midwest and if geography is political, borders being cultural rather than natural, there are many Midwest’s and they have always been a work in progress.

This afternoon’s first event is an open forum where everyone has an opportunity to speak and discuss what has been said. We want this to be a relaxed discussion prompted by a series of questions
loosely based upon Midwest HISTORY, CRITICISM, EDUCATION, PRACTICE AND SENSIBILITY. And we’re leaving time for questions and comments from the audience.