In 1973, Chicago partnered with the late art historian Arlene Raven and renowned designer Sheila De Bretteville to found the Feminist Studio Workshop (FSW), the first independent feminist art program. The FSW was housed in the Woman’s Building, co-founded by Chicago, Raven and De Bretteville, and based upon the name of a pavilion in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that exhibited arts and crafts by women from all over the world. In 2011, as part of Pacific Standard Time (the Getty funded initiative involving institutions from Santa Barbara to San Diego documenting and celebrating southern California art), an exhibition about the impact of the Woman’s Building was held at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design. A two-volume, comprehensive catalog (Doing It in Public: Feminism and art at the Woman’s Building) was published by Otis, supported by the Getty Foundation.
In 1974, Chicago stopped teaching in order to focus entirely upon studio work, going on to create a wide-ranging body of art, including her most famous work, The Dinner Party, a monumental, multi-media symbolic history of women in Western Civilization. She did not return to academia until 1999 when she began a series of semester-long residencies at universities around the country. Her first appointment was at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she facilitated a project class that culminated in an exhibition at the I.M. Pei designed art museum on campus. Titled SINsation (after the controversial exhibition of young British artists at the Brooklyn Museum), the student show garnered large audiences and universal acclaim.
No Comprimise: Lessons in Feminst Art with Judy Chicago was filmed by Susanne Schwibs over the course of Judy Chicago's one semester project class at IU Bloomington, this provides a candid and compelling look at Chicago's teaching methods. Purchase the DVD's at Through the Flower.
In 2000, Chicago held appointments at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC). The UNC class was a graduate seminar while at Duke, she facilitated a class called “From Theory to Practice” in which she guided students in projects based upon three subjects that she had explored in her own work: women’s history (The Dinner Party, 1974-1979); birth and creation (the Birth Project,1980-1985); and the subject of the Holocaust (Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light, 1985-1993), created in collaboration with her husband, photographer Donald Woodman. Again, an exhibition was held at the end of the semester which so impressed the administration that they held it over so that it could be seen by students and faculty across the campus.
In 2001, in celebration of the thirty-year anniversary of the famed Womanhouse, Chicago and Woodman were invited to re-visit the subject of the home in a project class for both women and men at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Working with students and a selected number of professional artists from the community, Chicago and Woodman introduced Chicago’s teaching methods to male students. The At Home project drew a wide audience and became the basis for a traveling exhibition along with art historical scholarship by writers like Dr. Vivien Green Fryd of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Viki Thompson Wylder of the University Art Museum at Florida State University, who is an acknowledged expert on Chicago’s oeuvre.
2003 brought another team-taught project when Chicago and Woodman facilitated “Envisioning the Future”, a public/private partnership in the Pomona Arts Colony, east of Los Angeles. Working with a group of seventy students and professional artists from around southern California, the couple oversaw the training of team facilitators who guided their students in the creation of a twelve-site exhibition exploring the subject of the future. Five years later, there was a project reunion which was attended by a majority of the participants, a testament to the ties that developed between them as a result of the project. Additionally, the project mural became the signature image for the city of Pomona.
In 2003, Dr. Karen Keifer Boyd, art education professor and theorist (who teaches at Penn State, one of America’s leading art education institutions) studied Judy Chicago’s pedagogical methods during Envisioning the Future, an ambitious public/private partnership in and around the Pomona Art Colony in southern California, www.pomonaenvisionsthefuture.com. Over the course of a semester, Chicago, with her husband, Donald Woodman, facilitated eight artmaking groups, training and supervising the eight artists who headed up each of the groups.
At the end of the project, there were twelve exhibitions around the Inland Valley (the name of the area east of L.A. that includes Pomona and Claremont, where the shows were held). In addition to observing Chicago’s teaching methods, Kiefer-Boyd interviewed both participants and facilitators which allowed her to both analyze and document Chicago’s pedagogy. The resultant cd represents the first effort to examine Chicago’s unique, content-based approach to artmaking, an approach that she has been using in classrooms and workshops since the beginning of the 1970’s.
Envisioning the Future's DVDs offer a comprehensive look by filmaker Shirley Harlan at the multiple projects that comprised the ambitious "Envisioning the Future". Filmed over the months of the semester long undertaking, these DVDs provide an intimate look at the ambitions, struggles and exhibitions created by nearly 70 participants working in 9 groups facilitated by Judy Chicago and her husband, photographer Donald Woodman. Purchase the DVD through Through the Flower's website.
In 2005, Chicago and Woodman became the first Chancellor’s Artists in Residence at Vanderbilt University, where they again facilitated students and local artists in a project called “Invoke/Evoke/Provoke”. The class worked in the Cohen Building on the Peabody campus, a 13,000 square foot Beaux-Arts building that became the site of an exhibition that – true to its title – provoked considerable discourse on the campus and in the surrounding community, demonstrating that art could play a far more significant role on campus than had been assumed by previous administrations.
When Judy Chicago created The Dinner Party (a monumental, multi-media tribute to the contributions of women in Western Civilization now permanently housed at the Brooklyn Museum), it was with the intention of educating a broad and diverse audience about women’s achievements. Over the years, teachers all over the world began doing classroom projects based upon The Dinner Party. With the permanent housing of The Dinner Party in 2007, Judy Chicago realized that it might be important to provide some guidelines for teachers, some of whom were using the piece in what she considered to be inappropriate ways.
In 2009, Through the Flower launched the K-12 Dinner Party Curriculum Project, a comprehensive curriculum that can educate, empower and inspire students at all grade levels. The curriculum team (spearheaded by renowned curriculum writer, Dr. Marilyn Stewart along with Dr. Peg Spiers and Dr. Carrie Nordland, two colleagues at Kutztown University) worked closely with Judy Chicago to design a curriculum that is grounded in a deep study of The Dinner Party, one that encourages open-ended inquiry, self-reflection and personal connection-making while helping students learn that there are many ways to be involved in art.
Because art educators are increasingly turning to on-line materials, The Dinner Party curriculum was formulated as a series of free, downloadable pdf files that will be maintained in perpetuity at Penn State University. Teachers are able to select materials that are relevant to their particular grade levels and respective school environments. These downloadable files will be supplemented by modestly priced visual materials (offered at Through the Flower’s on-line store) which are intended to aid teachers in the implementation of the curriculum.
The main components of the curriculum involve sixteen learning Encounters, each of which includes lesson plans suitable for a variety of grade levels. Although these Encounters present different approaches to The Dinner Party, they are all based upon enduring ideas about human experience as well as the students’ lived experiences.The Encounters are grouped in a sequence with particular goals in mind. The first section, Encountering The Dinner Party introduces students to the art. The second section, Raising Consciousness, is intended to help students think about gender and how it shapes them as individuals, also how The Dinner Party acts to raise consciousness about gender issues. Section Three, Creating Context, helps students understand the content and context of The Dinner Party by making connections to other works of art, examining the piece in an art historical context and also, in terms of women’s cultural production and its ongoing exclusion from history.
The fourth section, Exploring The Dinner Party, provides modes of study of the symbolism and meaning of the components of the work; the artist’s intentions; along with her use of metaphor. The last section, Building on The Dinner Party, demonstrates the way in which the study of an individual place setting can lead to an entire curriculum, in this case, one that focuses upon Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) and the Suffrage Movement.
Kutztown University offers an annual Dinner Party Institute led by Dr. Marilyn Stewart and colleagues where teachers explore the curriculum and visit The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum with Judy Chicago. For more information, visit www.thedinnerpartyinstitute.com. During the week long, intensive workshop, there is an award ceremony to celebrate the teacher who received the annual Minx Auerbach Award for Teaching Excellence, presented for the most innovative application of the curriculum. For guidelines for applications for this award, see The Dinner Party Institute website.
In 2010, Penn State University acquired Judy Chicago Art Education Archive, described by the university as one of the most important private collections of archival materials on feminist art education. The collection, housed in the University Archives, includes videos, photographs, and notes on Chicago’s teaching projects and is now open to the public in The Special Collections Library as well as online at http://judychicago.arted.psu.edu. In 2014, Penn State is planning a series of campus-wide and outreach events honoring Judy Chicago throughout the spring semester, including exhibitions, performances, symposium, film series and webcasts.