Cultural Emersion Experience

These sessions are limited. Register now to secure your spot!

Never Finished

A Feminist Artist’s Invitation to Embrace a Legacy of Self-Agency

Day: 7 November 2024
Time: 12:45 – 16:15
Price: $50
Location: Art Institute of Chicago
All Attendees should meet at the Hilton Chicago Downtown at 12:45 to travel to the Art Institute together. 

Facilitators: Denise Thomson, Carolyn Morales, Kathleen S. Grove

Sign-up for the pre-conference workshop:

Full Description

What can art teach us about self-agency, leadership, and legacy? The feminist expressionist artist, Paula Modersohn-Becker, in a letter written at the turn of the 20th century to her friend Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote: “What is finished? And when is one finished? Hopefully never.” If one is “Never Finished” as Modersohn-Becker suggests, how might you deconstruct stereotypes, reclaim archetypes, embrace your legacy, and position yourself as an Architect of Change?  

Grounded in a “Never Finished” mindset, join co-editors of a forthcoming volume on women, aging, and wisdom to explore how the iconic artist Modersohn-Becker’s works depict women, leadership, and self-agency. Consider how relationships – in this case, the friendship of the painter Modersohn-Becker and the Austrian poet Rilke – influence self-agency as you view artistic images that deconstruct stereotypes. Amplifying the wisdom of Modersohn-Becker as an artistic leader, join co-participants to create a self-portrait that represents your own legacy as a leader.  

Paula Modersohn-Becker defied social and cultural norms to create her own style; the subtleties of her works of art and her unconventional life journey positioned her as an Architect of Change at the turn of the 20th century. Participants in this cultural emersion session will have an opportunity to view the special exhibit, Paula Modersohn-Becker: I Am Me, and explore how she used art as a medium to reclaim archetypes and portray the leadership inherent in female agency. Attendees will gather at the conference site for an introduction to the exhibit, travel to the Art Institute of Chicago for a self-guided tour, then return to the conference venue to discuss observations and insights while creating a self-portrait as a memento and experiential reminder of the power of art to influence leadership journeys.  

Registration costs of the cultural emersion session will include an entrance ticket to the Art Institute of Chicago. Materials to create a self-portrait will be provided to each participant. Following the workshop, emersion session attendees will have an opportunity to explore other collections at the institute on their own. More information about the artist and special exhibit can be found at the following link: 

Session Objectives 

  • Honor the legacy of an iconic artist and engage in this emersion session as co-creators of wisdom, 
  • Examine a curated collection of art exploring aspects of the feminine experience, consider the dynamics of relationships, and discern how artistic works such as paintings and poetry influence self-agency and leadership, 
  • Create a personalized self-portrait that depicts one’s unique leadership journey and legacy aspirations. 

Session Goals 

  • Embrace other ‘ways of knowing’ to deconstruct stereotypes, enhance self-agency, and consider the synergistic significance between leadership and relationships,  
  • Harvest the wisdom of life experiences while creatively crafting an original piece of art that portrays session learnings, 
  • Understand the power of art and artistic expression to create change and multiply collective impact as an Architect of Change. 


12:45 – 13:15: Meet & Greet @ Hilton Chicago / Intro to Session 

  • Co-facilitators of the cultural emersion session will welcome participants, provide an introductory overview of the special exhibit, and answer questions prior to traveling to the Art Institute of Chicago. 

13:15 – 13:30: Transit to Art Institute of Chicago 

  • Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on a leadership theme as they walk the approximate half-mile distance between the conference venue and Art Institute or contract with a ride-share service for transportation between sites. 

13:30 – 15:00: View Special Exhibit @ Art Institute of Chicago 

  • Participants will be encouraged to download the museum app and view, on their own, 70 works by the female expressionist painter, Paula Modersohn-Becker, presented in this country as a first-ever museum retrospective of her works. This special exhibit is a collaboration between Neue Galerie New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. 

15:00 – 15:15: Transit from Art Institute to Hilton Chicago 

  • Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on self-agency and legacy themes as they return to the conference venue by walking the approximate half-mile distance from the Art Institute or contracting with a ride-share service for transportation between sites. 

15:15 – 16:15: Self-Portrait Creation 

  • Session co-facilitators will lead participants in a conversation about their observations, insights, and experiences while concurrently inviting them to create a self-portrait. Art supplies will be provided. 


Denise Thomson

Denise Thomson, EdD, specializes in coaching executive-level teams and creating innovative programs that support lifelong learning. She is a Certified Coach/Consultant in Appreciative Inquiry and Whole Systems Intelligence, and a Circle Practitioner with over 35-years of experience facilitating participatory leadership and collaborative conversation circles. Denise is Chair-Emerita of the Executive Leadership Team of the ILA Women and Leadership Member Community and received an award from the group for “Outstanding Practice with Broad Impact” in 2021. 

Carolyn Morales

Carolyn Morales, PhD, has more than twenty years of leadership experience operationalizing diversity visions into strategic plans and solutions within higher education, nonprofit, and business sectors. Carolyn has a PhD and MA in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, an MA in International and Intercultural Management from SIT Graduate Institute, and a BA in English from Baylor University.  She is a graduate of the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Academy at Furman University and a recipient of the Toni Morrison Society Founders Award.   

Kathleen S. Grove

Kathleen S. Grove, JD, has been consulting, advising, and counseling in a professional capacity throughout a career that has encompassed the fields of law, business, mental health counseling, and higher education. She has been the Director of the Office for Women at Indiana University Indianapolis, since 2004 where she works to create an inclusive and equitable campus environment where all can succeed. In 2021, Director Grove won an award from the ILA Women and Leadership Member Community for “Outstanding Practice with Local Impact”.