Spencer art

Hong Chun Zhang, an artist to be featured in the Spencer's exhibit, said she incorporates her identity as a Chinese immigrant into much of her recent work.

After receiving a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment of Arts, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas will hold a new exhibit in 2023 celebrating women and non-binary artists.

The exhibit will be titled “Bold Women: Changing the World and Art and will trace women’s artistic roles in creating change and advancing social justice during the past 150 years and across many cultures,” according to the Spencer Museum of Art’s website.

Susan Earle, the curator of the exhibition and of European and American art at the museum said the grant money will go to assembling a group composed of women and individuals from underrepresented groups to act as advisors for the exhibit. They will help Earle choose the art for the exhibit along with aiding in programming, marketing and creating educational materials for the exhibit, according to KU Today.

“I invited [the advisors] based on the strength of their work and what I thought they could contribute to the project” Earle said. “It’s a way of a bringing in more voices and getting other perspectives.”

Additionally, the grant money will go to funding residency to artists during the exhibition and a student intern to help organize the project, according to KU Today

The majority of the art featured in the exhibit will be from the museum’s collection, but Earle said roughly one third of it will be dedicated to new pieces and art not currently affiliated with the museum.

Hong Chun Zhang is one artist that Earle has invited to feature new work for the exhibit.

Zhang was born in China but has been a resident of Lawrence since 2004. She said she is unsure what her new piece will look like, but plans for it to be large and to incorporate Chinese ink and Italian fabric.

“My recent work has a lot to do with my identity as a Chinese immigrant,” Zhang said. “I use long hair as my motif to create something from my personal identity.”

The idea for the exhibit came naturally to Earle, who said she has made it a priority to collect art from women and underrepresented groups. She believes this exhibit is an opportunity to feature the museum's vast collection of art from different cultures and these groups.

“It’s a rebalancing, so those artists that have been historically suppressed have a voice,” Earle said.

Zhang said she is honored to be a part of this exhibit.

“To me, bold women are women that are powerful, confident and fearless,” Zhang said. “They are not afraid of breaking traditional rules and current trends.”

The exhibit was originally planned for 2022, but has been pushed to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and renovations to the museum starting in May, Earle said. Additionally, she said it is normal for exhibits to take years to plan, especially ones that involve an advisory board and artist residencies.

“The more complicated [the exhibit] is, the more time it takes,” Earle said.

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