Woodlands Academy celebrates Women in the Arts in March

Works by artists Leslie Iwai and Eloise Heinrich were displayed at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart as part of the 2023 Jamie Tuttle Women in the Arts festival, which also included in-person presentations by each artist. 

Iwai’s March 20 appearance at the all-girls college-prep high school in Lake Forest included an “artist talk” open to all interested students, faculty and staff. Later she met with AP and Advanced Studio students in the school’s art studio.

During her March 9 visit to Woodlands Academy, Heinrich demonstrated the sgraffito technique to ceramics and art classes as well as interested individual students. She also demonstrated quick-build techniques to ceramics students. After finishing ceramic tiles made using the sgraffito design, students will create sculptures using techniques Heinrich demonstrated. 

Besides using what they learned, participating Woodlands Academy students enjoyed meeting these two professional female artists and learning about their lives, art, ideas, techniques and processes. 

Iwai is an installation artist and sculptor whose mathematics, chemistry, and architecture degrees inform her passion. She also cites her Midwest roots as a significant factor. “My family’s garden was the setting for some of my earliest and most meaningful memories,” she says. “A frigid winter melting into spring is an experience embedded in my work as I explore themes of growth, decay, death and new life. Using processes such as sewing, layering, folding, and welding, coupled with an inward and personal form of artistic caretaking, I tend my own interior garden while creating each new work.”

Along with its many awards, solo exhibits and residencies, Iwai’s work is displayed in numerous private and public collections. She has taught in both academic and community settings in Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois and New Mexico. When not in her studio, Iwai can often be found hunting for treasures at thrift stores or walking on trails near her home in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Heinrich is a ceramic artist who describes her work as exploring self, connection and all the messy yet beautiful moments stuck in between. “I use clay to mimic these moments, explore their fragility, and their stubborn desire to be seen,” she says. “Through my ceramic forms, I continue my study of physical and emotional connections.”  Heinrich considers touch the focal point of her practice, which she uses to understand her surroundings and connect with others.

The Chicago native teaches at Harper College in Palatine, Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago and The Art Center of Highland Park. She earned a master’s degree in fine art at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in art from Northeastern Illinois University, where she was the teaching assistant for the ceramics department. Heinrich works in her studio at the Midwest Clay Guild and is a member of Evanston Made.

​The Women in the Arts event has been a Woodlands Academy tradition since 2005 when parents of two alumnae offered to sponsor exhibits by two visiting artists. In addition to the exhibits of their work, each visiting artist made a presentation to students taking studio art and photography. Because this initial event was so well received by the visiting artists and Woodlands students alike, the donors offered to make Women in the Arts an annual event.

In 2021, this annual celebration of female artists was named in memory of Jamie Tuttle, a vital member of the school’s arts faculty for three decades who inspired generations of Woodlands students with her dedication to the arts. She also taught photography at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design for several years. Tuttle passed away Sept. 15, 2020, after a heroic battle with cancer.