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Wunderlich receives prestigious Illinois Artist Fellowship Award

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – In announcing recipients of its 2020 Artist Fellowship Awards, the Illinois Arts Council Agency said the finalists come from “different communities across the state, including urban, suburban and rural communities.”

The “rural” recipient of one of the $15,000 fellowships is Monmouth College art professor Janis Wunderlich, who received one of the 17 awards in her first year of eligibility. To be eligible for the fellowship, an artist must have resided in Illinois at least two years.

“One of the things I’m really excited about is that this award showcases the arts at Monmouth,” said Wunderlich, who came to the College in 2017 from Ashland University in Ohio. “Chicago is so known for its arts. I’m really excited that the agency gave one to a rural area, too.”

IACA fellowships are awarded to Illinois artists in recognition of their outstanding work and commitment within the arts. More than 350 Illinois-based creative artists applied for the 2020 awards. Of the 17 fellowships, 12 were received by artists from the Chicago area. In addition to Wunderlich, the other recipients were from the university towns of Urbana, Normal, Springfield and Charleston.

The Artist Fellowship Program offers funding in six artistic disciplines. A ceramicist, Wunderlich was one of two $15,000 recipients from crafts. Other categories included ethnic and folk arts, interdisciplinary/computer-based arts, photography, sculpture, and all other visual arts, including installation, mixed media, painting, graphic and drawing.

Wunderlich’s detailed ceramic sculptures capture the dualities and complexities of being human. They are also inspired by historical ceramic figurines and from growing up with a Cherokee storyteller-painter grandfather. Her sculptures have been included in exhibitions and museum collections throughout the world, including New Taipei City Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan and The American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, Calif.

A goal of the IACA program is for the unrestricted awards to support the recipients’ creative endeavors and artistic growth, and Wunderlich is developing a few plans for how to make that happen.

“I want to build my studio practice and build my social media presence,” she said. “I like the challenge of thinking about that, using business strategies so that I can use the money to build a business in Illinois, and also nationally and internationally.”

One of her ideas is to purchase lighting equipment to help her film video tutorials that will help her build a client base. She also hopes to develop a more solid plan for packaging and shipping her work.

“I want to learn more about how to ship things carefully and precisely and get a good business plan for that,” she said.

That shipping plan is an immediate need. In the next few weeks, Wunderlich will send eight pieces to an exhibit in North Carolina that features two other artists. She was originally scheduled to drive the pieces halfway across the country and attend the opening of the exhibit, but the COVID-19 pandemic altered the gallery’s schedule, canceling the formal opening.

Throughout the rest of 2020, Wunderlich will also have her art on display at three exhibits in Illinois, including solo exhibits in Galesburg (opening July 10) and Monmouth College (Oct. 17), as well as an exhibit in Champaign (Sept. 1).

Her solo exhibit that has been on display at the Contemporary Art Center of Peoria since March closes on June 26.

In 2016, Wunderlich was awarded an artist’s residency and research opportunity in Dresden, Germany, sponsored by the Saxon State and Greater Columbus Arts Council. A decade earlier, Wunderlich was one of five women featured in the documentary film Who Does She Think She Is?