Estella Lauter

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1976


By lucky accident, in September 1974 I saw a brochure announcing a conference to be held that October in Lacrosse, Wisconsin-a city 250 miles across the state. After I rubbed my eyes and looked again, the brochure still said that Elizabeth Janeway and Miriam Schapiro would be the featured speakers. Although I knew nothing about the brand new sponsoring organization, Wisconsin Women in the Arts (WWIA). I resolved to attend. I had assigned Janeway's book in my course that fall and I knew Schapiro by reputation, though I had never seen even a print of her painting, and I had never spoken with any recognized woman artist about her own work. For me, as well as for many of the 212 people who attended that conference, the opportunity for face-to-face contact with these inspiring women was unprecedented. Schapiro showed slides not only of her own paintings, but also of work by other historical and contemporary women whose names we had not yet heard. Janeway's lecture on images of women sparked fruitful and sometimes heated discussion about the artist's responsibility to create new imagery for women. The conference also offered 15 workshops dealing with a broad range of practical, interpersonal and philosophical issues, led by professional women from all over the state; in addition, there were ten short performances in the media of dance, film, music and theater. The quality of the lectures was fine, as I had expected, but the excellence of the workshops and performances by Wisconsin women was even more influential. For many of us, the conference changed our lives, our patterns of commitment, our understanding of the place of the arts in society and our sense of what we might accomplish. Women returned from the conference with new energy to organize art exhibits, symposia, radio programs and other opportunities for women artists. One woman summarized the effect of the conference in a word: stimulating. She added "Makes me want to work harder than ever. Our women are so talented."



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