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Union League Club of Chicago recognizes Theaster Gates and the late Ellen Lanyon
Internationally celebrated artist, the late Ellen Lanyon will be inducted into the Union League Club of Chicago’s Distinguished Artists program at the Club’s biennial gala Beaux-Arts Celebration.

CHICAGO, IL.- Two internationally recognized Chicago artists, Theaster Gates and the late Ellen Lanyon, will be inducted into the Union League Club of Chicago’s Distinguished Artists program at the Club’s biennial gala Beaux-Arts Celebration on the evening of Friday, January 31, 2014, at 65 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago.

Lanyon, who died suddenly in early October and Gates were selected in mid-2012 by vote of their peers as representatives of Chicago artists to both the visual arts and community.

Union League Club of Chicago Distinguished Artists, many of whom are expected to attend the 2014 Beaux Arts celebration are: Dawoud Bey, Phyllis Bramson, William Conger, Barbara Crane, Richard Hunt, Michiko Itatani, Vera Klement, Robert Lostutter, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Kerry James Marshall, John David Mooney, James Valerio, and Anne Wilson.

The late Don Baum, Ruth Duckworth and Ed Paschke were also Distinguished Artist privilege holders.

“Ellen Lanyon and Theaster Gates’ careers may have been separated by decades, but their impact on the Chicago art and art practice is immeasurable. As teachers, mentors, activists and world recognized talents in their own right, they represent the very pinnacle of our program - Distinguished Artists leading Distinguished Lives,” said Marsha Goldstein, chair of the Union League Club of Chicago’s Beaux Arts Task Force.

“These two newest members of the Club’s Distinguished Artist program will be recognized for their contributions of furthering Chicago’s reputation as a world-class center of the arts,” adds Goldstein.

According to Elizabeth Whiting, the Union League Club of Chicago’s curator, “Ellen Lanyon and Theaster Gates represent Chicago’s rich past and bright future, and it is our privilege to honor them as Distinguished Artists.”

“Ellen Lanyon is an icon and Chicago treasure who left an indelible mark on both the Chicago and New York art communities. Her paintings, prints, and collages depicting flora and fauna, birds, gears, gadgets, antique toys and tools have a distinctly Chicago flavor as they nod toward surrealism and remind us of the excitement and power of ordinary objects to endlessly fascinate us with their mystery and secret lives. For over 70 years, through her art, her teaching and mentoring, her commitment to women’s issues and artist’s causes, Ellen Lanyon was a petite but potent force whose role in Chicago’s art history is profound.”

“Theaster Gates is a global artist and change agent who is celebrated internationally for his expansive and socially engaged art practice that is about challenging, converting, engaging, intervening, restoring, repurposing, communing, developing, reimagining, salvaging, and creating new cultural objects and moments via object making, performance, installation, music, etc. Theaster’s commitment to his community is powerful and extraordinary, and while his art is exhibited around the world, he brings the world to Chicago.”

Many of the inducted Distinguished Artists have chosen to contribute to the Union League Club’s private art collection. Theaster Gates, whose work is often community based and about connecting people, organizations and different communities to one another, plans a conceptual gift which will help increase the legacy of Chicago art for future generations.

Inspired by the Union League Club’s commitment to community and reflecting on his own deep commitment to Chicago’s South Side, Gates’ idea is to partner with the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Union League Club of Chicago’s conservation laboratory and bring the care and painting conservation to one of the works in DuSable’s collection. This poetic and conceptual partnership reflects the Union League Club’s core values and Gates’ artistic practice while forging new connections between storied institutions.

“I am excited to celebrate this partnership between two great institutions, DuSable and the Union League Club of Chicago, as we create an opportunity to conserve works in the collection of the DuSable using the resources of the Union League’s exemplary conservation laboratory,” said Gates.

Lanyon earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, and studied painting conservation at the Courtauld Institute at the University of London, UK. She also received an Honorary Doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her works are in the permanent collections of many major museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (New York), Galleria Comunale D’Arte Conemporanea (Arezzo, Italy), the Library of Congress, the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C.) and the New York Public Library.

Lanyon’s work has been presented in over seventy-five solo exhibitions and three major traveling retrospectives, and she has been commissioned for major projects throughout the United States. In Chicago, Lanyon’s Riverwalk Gateway, which connects the Chicago Riverwalk to the lakefront bicycle path, features murals that depict the rise of Chicago and the significance of the river to the city.

She was the recipient of two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fulbright Study Grant, a Logan Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago, a Florsheim Art Foundation Grant, several Yaddo Fellowships, and an Artist’s Grant from the Cassandra Foundation, among other awards and special recognitions.

Lanyon resided and maintained studios in Chicago and New York City and was a retired Associate Professor of The Cooper Union in New York City. She also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of Visual Arts.

Gates earned a Bachelor of Science degree in urban planning and ceramics from Iowa State University, a Master of Fine Arts in religious studies from the University of Cape Town, and a Master of Science degree in urban planning, religious studies and ceramics from Iowa State University.

Gates’ work has been displayed in international galleries and featured in major museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Seattle Art Museum, White Cube in London, Punta della Dogana in Venice, Italy, Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany and TWIG Gallery in Brussels, Belgium, among others.

He is committed to the revitalization of underserved neighborhoods through urban planning and art practices. He was recently commissioned to design the 95th Street Chicago Transit Authority Terminal on Chicago’s south side and previously initiated the Dorchester Projects, a rejuvenation of several formerly abandoned sites in a south side Chicago neighborhood.

Gates is the recipient of the Graham Foundation Architecture Award, Wall Street Journal Innovator of the Year Award, and a Joyce Foundation Grant, among other awards and honors. Gates has also been named a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

A Chicago native, Gates resides in the city’s Hyde Park community where in addition to producing and performing art, he teaches at the University of Chicago as the university’s first Director of Arts and Public Life.

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