How to Be a Feminist Artist Book Project



Project Description

Elizabeth Black '13 and professor Patricia Olson worked on the Women's Art Institute (WAI) Research project which involved studying the materials WAI students are given as well as transcribing interviews Elizabeth Erikson (Patricia Olson's co-founder of the WAI and partner in creating a book on the Women's Art Institute) had given.




Elizabeth Black '13

Why did you want to do a collaborative research project?

It was very fortunate that professor Olson contacted me about collaborating with her in the program- and I was most happy to accept! Such opportunities do not come along very often for undergraduates, and especially to work with someone like Patricia Olson who has such accomplishments in the art world (she founded the WAI with Elizabeth Erikson 13 years ago). Also I knew it would be a wonderful opportunity to grow artistically and to work with professionals.

How did you choose your research topic?

I didn't actually choose the topic, it was something professor Olson had already planned on doing when she asked me to collaborate with her. As for actually choosing my part of the project, or rather the work I was going to do as my side of the program, I spoke with Pat about possible projects I could do. Ultimately it came down to making art or doing research. Obviously I choose art, as I thought it would be the best way to get what I could out of this experience, and to utilize the resources that were available to me.

What was one of the highlights of your summer?

Going to the MIA with professor Olson! We went to see the Rembrandt exhibit that was up there, and it was marvelous- We discussed his technique and style, and it was just nice to be looking at a master’s actual work. Also it felt good to take a break from the studio and to interact with my mentor in a different setting and talk about art.

What was it like being a research collaborator with a faculty member?

To put it into really simple words, it was really nice to be appreciated for being a good student. Plus it's really satisfying knowing that you had a part in a project with a professional, and someone who appreciates the skills you possess. It was also really nerve-racking knowing that all the pressure is on just the two of you. So I wanted to do the best I could do, and wasn't sure how much that entailed. But it helped meeting with the other Summer Scholars and talking about what we're doing and what was expected of us. Also you just get to know your mentor on a different level than you knew them before in class or for extra-curriculars, you're more their equal as you are a collaborator not an assistant or student worker.

How has this research helped you in school and/or other areas of your life and future?

It's helped me feel more confident in leadership roles (and I actually learned that I like it!), and just to understand more about being an artist and working creatively and collaboratively. I wouldn't say all of my paintings were a success, but I think working under pressure is something that I understand more now and can use to future advantage. And there were still many things that I got from and gave to the program that were really beneficial, like working with a professor and being a part of such a program.

Also I'm so glad that the program introduced possibilities for scholarships after I graduate. I was not aware of all the possibilities for someone like myself, and am so grateful and anxious to go to the next phase in my life.

Would you recommend Summer Scholars and/or collaborative research to other students?

Yes! If you have the time and the ambition I would definitely suggest it- It's a great learning experience. You become more knowledgeable and confident in yourself and working with others. Also you get paid to do a project that you want to do, and with a professor. Not many people get such opportunities and it's one that can really broaden the possibilities available to you.

How has this experience added to your success at St. Kate’s and beyond?

I'm considering actually getting more involved in the Women's Art Institute, by becoming a student myself. Plus by being around professor Olson and other professionals during the program, I've been able to make more connections. Thus more opportunities have come up- And of course scholarship possibilities are wonderful. It's so nice to have the school support you through the end of your college career (and with possibilities beyond) as it becomes really crucial to be able to stand on your own once you graduate.

Anything else you want to tell people about your experience?

If you have the chance, go for it! But I would make that the priority for the summer, as it is demanding. But the results are great, and I couldn't suggest it more.


  • Three paintings and transcribed interviews to be used for the upcoming book
  • An exhibit at St. Catherine University Visual Arts Building Second Floor Gallery at the beginning of the Fall 2012 semester.

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