A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Between the Lions


by Megan Karwacki

Judie Anderson (BFA 1960) has a long history “between the lions,” as she says. Anderson’s experience with SAIC began before she attended the school and continues today, through her work with the Half Century Club as well as her support of SAIC’s Annual Fund. Her career in art has also taken her back to SAIC and the people who influenced her practice.

As a grade-school student, Anderson attended a summer painting workshop at the Art Institute of Chicago. She still remembers how excited she was to learn basic techniques, such as using the bristles of a toothbrush to create snowflakes on a painting. “I used that toothbrush technique to create this piece,” Anderson notes as she points out a work depicting each of the four seasons. “It may be one of the oldest pieces I have in my studio.”

Anderson continued studying art through high school and received scholarships from three schools, including SAIC. “As a public school student from Back of the Yards, I knew I would need scholarship assistance to attend college,” she reflects. Anderson’s choice was an easy one, and she enrolled at SAIC. She says, “When I walked through the doors on my first day of classes, I just looked around and thought to myself, ‘I’m really here!’”

Anderson spent her first year at SAIC studying design, theater drawing, and drawing and painting before spending the summer at Ox-Bow, where she developed a friendship with LeRoy Neiman and his wife, Janet. She recalls, “LeRoy was one of the first people who exposed me to the business side of art and inspired me to focus my studies on fashion illustration and art advertising.” Neiman wasn’t the only person who helped Anderson make sense of the working world. She says of her instructors, “Since they were working in careers outside of SAIC and teaching at the same time, I was able to learn a lot about being a business person and an artist while I was still a student.”

Having a strong sense of how to run a successful art business helped Anderson launch her career upon receiving her diploma. After starting out as a newspaper fashion illustrator, Anderson started a freelance business with husband Bill, a fellow SAIC alum. The Andersons’ business began when Judie responded to an advertisement for a children’s illustration project. It didn’t take long before their business was booming. They spent the next 25 years working side by side on many different projects—their styles becoming so similar to one another that few could tell which Anderson painted which piece. 

Not long after they decided to close their business, Judie took a position with the Chicago Tribune as an illustrator before later becoming the Editorial Art Manager. She spent 20 years at the Tribune before she retired and started painting again. Anderson is now a member of the Elmhurst Artists’ Guild, where she exhibits throughout the year. Her works are currently featured in the Guild’s Spring Members’ Show and will run through June 14. She is also gearing up for a solo show there in September, which will feature her new works. 

Anderson makes a point to give back to SAIC—another lesson learned from LeRoy Neiman that has resonated with her throughout her career. “He taught us that once we could give back, that we should,” she says. She volunteers her time by helping with the Half Century Club, SAIC’s 50th class reunion and induction ceremony that takes place during Commencement weekend. Anderson was Half Century Club Chair for her reunion year in 2010 and served as co-chair in 2011. 

Anderson also gives back what she can to SAIC’s Annual Fund. She notes, “I give to the Annual Fund because the Annual Fund gave to me. I was a scholarship student at SAIC and would not have been able to attend otherwise. It is so important to give what you can to the Annual Fund. Every little bit helps the students!” 

From her time studying at the museum as a girl to her experiences today with the Half Century Club, Anderson loves that her life and career have brought her full circle to where it all began. She remarks, “I become so inspired when I sit on stage at SAIC’s Commencement and see my youth in today’s graduates. I just think to them ‘Go out and do it!’ because they can, and I know they will.”