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Woman Made Gallery marking 20 years
by Natasha Hemley

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Woman Made, a Chicago art gallery, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next month.

Beate Minkovski, the gallery's executive director, had no intentions of opening a gallery or of going back to college. A little nudging from her youngest of five children pushed Minkovski, 44 at the time, to attend Northeastern Illinois University.

"I got a scholarship which forced me to go full time. I didn't want to accept it because I felt I was too old," said Minkovski.

At Northeastern, Minkovski met a woman named Kelly Hensen. The pair opened a studio for their senior show in order to graduate; said studio became the Woman Made Gallery.

The Woman Made Gallery opened its doors in 1992. Its first group show was "Women Do Women." In 1993 Hensen left the gallery, and Janet Bloch stepped in as gallery director until 2000.

The gallery opening couldn't have come at a better time. A 1992 statistic report by the NEA ( National Endowment for the Arts ) showed that only 17 percent of women had shows in U.S. galleries. The Bureau of Labor showed that in 1993, 48 percent of U.S. artists were women.

"All these other women came along to show their art and so it became something completely different. It was not planned," said Minkovski.

The gallery is non-profit and, since its opening, has held shows for 7,000 women from all over the United States and outside the country. The goal of the gallery is to make the public aware of women's art and to acknowledge the accomplishments of the women artists whose works the gallery displays.

The gallery has six different showings a year. Some are themed, while others are open to any artists and any style of art. The gallery then picks a guest judge, either from another gallery or another artist, to judge the work and decide which pieces will go in the show. What sets Woman Made apart from some commercial galleries is that this gallery doesn't discriminate. Any woman—whether straight, lesbian or transgender—can submit artwork.

"Our mission is to support the woman in the arts. I think women need a safe space to show. ... I think some [ headways ] need to be made," said Minkovski.

To mark its 20th anniversary, Woman Made will be doing a variety of artistic things throughout the year, the first one being its annual gala, which will be held April 20 at Salvage One, 1840 W. Hubbard St. Guests of the gala will be able to bid on items during a live and silent auction. The gallery's board decided to recognize Minkovski at this year's gala.

As part of this year's special campaign, photos of 20 women artists will be posted throughout the city; each will have a QR code that can be scanned to take the viewer to that woman's photo and story and then to the Woman Made website.

In July, the gallery will be showing the works of 20 jurors who have helped jury past shows, including Barbara Crane, Indira Freitas Johnson and Yolanda Lopez. The gallery will also be hosting a group show in September celebrating Women Artists in Illinois. The biggest undertaking for Woman Made Gallery will be working with 20 Chicago neighborhood organizations in areas where art barely exists or not at all. One of the neighborhoods participating is East Rogers Park, where women refuges from Kosovo live.

"The art has to do with how you envision your life, your home or community," said Minkovski.

Even though the gallery was started in the early '90s, it keeps current with social-media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

"We have different people who post on [ twitter ] including me and that has to be always current," said Minkovski.

Follow Woman Made Gallery on Twitter @WomanMade or visit .

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