March 30, 2023

Lynda Barry shines as 2023 Mackey Chair

This year’s Lois and Willard Mackey Chair in Creative Writing encouraged members of the Beloit community to embrace their inner child.

Lynda Barry, the 2023 Lois and Willard Mackey Chair in Creative Writing Lynda Barry, noted cartoonist, writer, and Beloit's 2023 Mackey Chair in Creative Writing, delighted her audience when she spoke about creativity at a February campus presentation. The cover of her book, What It Is, is projected behind her.
Credit: Elisabeth Balistreri’21

Lynda Barry, renowned graphic novelist, 2019 MacArthur Fellow, and 2023 Beloit’s 2023 Mackey Professor delivered a Feb. 16 keynote address called “What it Is,” featuring her own drawings alongside those of young children and even her Beloit College Mackey Workshop students. The question that has guided her life and career was on full display: What is the image, and what does it do?

Barry embodies the annual professorship’s emphasis on creativity. During the keynote, and at an earlier workshop for faculty and staff, she preached the power of drawing as more than a means to an end or the only way to create a good picture. Instead, it’s a way of expanding the imagination or exploring memory.

On the cold, snowy February evening, Barry lectured to a Weissberg Auditorium packed with students, faculty, staff, and community members, as well as a number of prospective students and others via livestream. Besides singing her own bio to the tune of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” she talked about her life and teaching and her work with Beloit students. She talked about asking them to write stories to accompany children’s drawings, focusing their energy by having them draw for one minute at the beginning of class with their eyes closed, drawing with two hands, or sketching their own portraits.

“This talk is about our longing to interact with the world in a creative way,” Barry said about her presentation. “Why do we still wish we could draw or write or sing or dance even after we’ve given up on ever being able to do these things? Why does this longing stay with us?”

To read more about Lynda Barry and to find her recent book titles, visit

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  • Presidential search reaches final stages


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