Challenge Accepted: Can You Name Five Women Artists?

Ask someone to name five artists and responses will likely include names such as Warhol, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci—all male artists. Ask someone to name five women artists, and the question poses more of a challenge.

Back by popular demand this March, the National Museum of Women in the Arts continues to ask, “Can you name five women artists?” This simple question calls attention to the inequity women artists face, inspires conversation, and brings awareness to a larger audience. Last year, the campaign struck a chord, and tens of thousands of posts were shared on social media. This year, more than 200 institutions from 50 states, 22 countries, and seven continents have already signed on to participate.

Join us throughout the month to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Challenge your family and friends.
  2. Share posts about your favorite women artists.
  3. Share a work by a woman artist at a museum or gallery near you.
  4. Explore NMWA’s artist profiles to discover artists you may not know.
  5. Get the facts about art world inequality and track campaign updates all month long.

To kick off the month, learn more about five influential women artists from the museum’s collection who defied expectations:

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580) and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar (ca. 1939); NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580 and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar, ca. 1939; NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) is regarded as the first professional woman artist. For 20 years beginning in the 1580s, Fontana was the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen. Not only was Fontana the breadwinner of her family, she also gave birth to 11 children.

For more than eight decades, Maria Martinez (1887–1980) revived and continued the centuries-old black-on-black pottery traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Through her creative vision and skill, Martinez influenced generations of artists.

Left to right: Clementine Hunter, Untitled, 1981; NMWA, Gift of Evelyn M. Shambaugh; Lola Álvarez Bravo, De generación en generación, ca. 1950; NMWA, Gift of the Artist; © 1995 University of Arizona Foundation, Center for Creative Photography

Entirely self-taught and immensely prolific, Clementine Hunter (ca. 1887–1988) earned critical acclaim for vibrant paintings depicting life in the Cane River region of central Louisiana. Hunter did not start painting until the 1940s, when she was already a grandmother.

Lola Álvarez Bravo (1907–1993) was one of Mexico’s first professional women photographers, documenting daily life and portraying prominent world leaders. Like her friend Frida Kahlo, Álvarez Bravo celebrated the traditional costumes and customs of her country’s varied regions. She cannily blended nationalist content with the expression of universal human emotions.

Lee Krasner, The Springs, 1964; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2012 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lee Krasner (1908–1984) was one of the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. Through six decades devoted to art, she explored innovative approaches to painting and collage. Often overshadowed by her husband, Krasner declared, “I’m always going to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock . . . but I painted before Pollock, during Pollock, after Pollock.”

Want to help advocate for women in the arts? Starting March 1, take the challenge and post about #5WomenArtists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tag us @WomenInTheArts.

Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

March Madness: A Digital Dive into Women’s History Month

NMWA’s year-round mission is to address gender imbalance in the art world, but every March—Women’s History Month—the museum has an opportunity to catch the attention of a wider audience to celebrate women artists. This March, NMWA launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of women artists by asking, “Can you name five women artists?”

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NMWA’s social media campaign for Women’s History Month

A huge community joined in!

  • Art museums, libraries, galleries, and art lovers from 20 countries answered by sharing and tagging their favorite women artists.
  • News outlets like the Huffington Post and the Atlantic helped spread the challenge.
  • More than 370 cultural organizations and 11,000 individuals joined the campaign to promote women artists.
  • More than 3,300 Instagram posts and more than 23,000 tweets used the hashtag #5womenartists.

During the campaign, NMWA’s number of digital followers increased by 140% on Instagram, 19% on Facebook, and 12% on Twitter. At least 60 individuals and cultural institutions wrote personal blog posts about the challenge, in English as well as Spanish, Italian, Turkish, and Estonian. NMWA’s blog post launching the campaign was read almost 2,000 times.

“We are delighted with the overwhelming response to the #5womenartists campaign,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “By calling attention to the inequity women artists face today, the Women’s Museum is gratified to have inspired even more conversation and awareness than we anticipated. We thank all of the cultural organizations and social media users who joined us in this important initiative.”

Overall, March was filled with exciting digital endeavors to bolster the visibility of women artists. Thirty-five participants attended NMWA’s fourth annual Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, part of the Art + Feminism initiative to improve Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. Using the museum’s resources, contributors improved 20 existing articles and created new entries for Hungarian-born Mexican photographer Kati Horna, silversmith and jewelry designer Alma Eikerman, and drafted information for the Association of San Francisco Women Artists.

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An #EmptyNMWA instameet participant snaps a photo of a painting by Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes

For International Women’s Day on March 8, NMWA captured tweets and posts from people around the world celebrating #5womenartists. The museum also hosted a before-hours instameet for a group of 30 local photographers to tour, snap photos, and explore the museum’s galleries.

For each week of 2016, a different museum across the globe takes over the @52museums Instagram account. March 21–27, @womeninthearts brought stories about the museum and women artists to a broader digital public. To finish the month, the museum also participated in #MuseumWeek, the first worldwide cultural event on Twitter, and shared the building’s history, collection, exhibitions, and advocacy programs.

During the last week, nearly 5,000 people viewed the museum’s BuzzFeed quiz, which asked, “Which of these #5womenartists are you?” So, can you name #5womenartists? In a Twitter poll, 83% of NMWA followers said yes! Next year, we’re aiming for 100%.

Want to continue to advocate for women in the arts? Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Visit the museum, become a member, and get involved in upcoming programs.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: March 11, 2016

Can you name five women artists?

#5WomenArtists is trending! In honor of Women’s History Month, NMWA started a social media campaign to raise awareness of women artists. Everyone’s chiming in, from press coverage by the Huffington Post and the Atlantic to Instagram and Twitter posts by art museums, libraries, and galleries around the world. Join in!

Front-Page Femmes

Painter Tamuna Sirbiladze died at age 45.

Monique Mouton’s work is “both unexpected and grounded” at Bridget Donahue.

The winner of the National Portrait Gallery’s 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is Baltimore artist Amy Sherald.

Blouin Artinfo interviews curator Ringo Bunoan on Art Dubai’s Marker program and Art Dubai fair director Antonia Carver on the art scene in the Middle East. Curator Zelda Cheatle weighs in on the Dubai Photo Exhibition.

Charline von Heyl shares her 100 favorite paintings.

Helen Muspratt’s celebrated portraiture of the 1930s used experimental techniques and documented her times.

“Secrecy is a form of power,” writes Morgan Jerkins in the New Yorker, discussing black women and their diaries in Helen Oyeyemi’s new short-story collection, What Is Yours Is Not Yours.

On March 6, the Atlantic noted poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s 210th birthday.

Hyperallergic writes about the range of work—“a showcase of radical, DIY intersectionality”—at the fourth annual NYC Feminist Zine Fest.

The Washington Ballet company’s new director is renowned ballerina Julie Kent.

The LA Times reports, “Eclipsed, by the U.S.-born, Zimbabwean-raised Danai Gurira, represents the first time a Broadway play has been written and directed by and cast entirely with women. That these are black women makes this milestone only that much more remarkable.” Gurira’s Familiar is covered in the New Yorker.

Hyperallergic revisits The Watermelon Woman, a groundbreaking black lesbian film from 1996.

Anita Sarkeesian is creating a video series about overlooked women in history to be released on YouTube in September.

A new symphony by Tonia Ko, “Strange Sounds and Explosions Worldwide” premiered at Carnegie Hall.

Shows We Want to See

Yayoi Kusama’s Footprints of Life, a 15-piece sculptural installation, is on view in Honolulu.

The Guardian covers an exhibition of work by Hilma af Klint that makes “a fortuitous conjunction . . . an unmissable delight” alongside art by Das Institut at the Serpentine Gallery.

Artist Alice Instone’s exhibition The Pram in the Hall reveals the to-do lists of women artists and celebrities.

—Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Women’s History Month: Can You Name #5womenartists?

Did you know that even though women make up 51% of visual artists today, in the U.S. only 5% of work on museum walls is by women? It is no surprise that if you ask someone to name five artists, they will likely list prominent male artists.

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Share social media posts with #5womenartists; Photo: Laura Hoffman, NMWA

This March, for Women’s History Month, NMWA leads a social media campaign to help everyone answer the question, Can you name five women artists? Join the museum and other institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Guggenheim Bilbao, to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5womenartists on Twitter and Instagram. Find out more about the initiative in this artnet article.

Are you interested in participating? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Challenge your friends and family to name five women artists.
  2. Tell us who your favorite women artists are and why.
  3. Share a work by a woman artist at a museum or gallery near you.
  4. Explore NMWA’s artist profiles to discover artists you may not know.
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Left to right: Artwork by Alma Thomas, Rosalba Carriera, Maria Sibylla Merian, Hester Bateman, and Frida Kahlo; Photos: NMWA

To kick off the month, learn more about five women artists from the museum’s collection who broke barriers and influenced future generations:

In 1921, Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891–1978) was the first fine arts student to graduate from Howard University in Washington, D.C. During her 35-year career as a teacher at a D.C. junior high school, she was devoted to her students and organized art clubs, lectures, and student exhibitions.

Rosalba Carriera (1675–1757), a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, was responsible for elevating the status of pastel from its use for sketches to a respected medium in its own right. Over the span of its existence, the Academy, which had approximately 450 members in total, only admitted 15 women.

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Visitors examine Petah Coyne’s work; Photo: Laura Hoffman, NMWA

At the age of 52, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) and her young daughter embarked on a risky trip to the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. She recorded indigenous flora and fauna and helped 18th-century scientists understand metamorphosis.

Hester Bateman (1709–1794) inherited her husband’s silver workshop after he died. She made the business profitable and her descendants helped the workshop thrive until the mid-19th century. The key to her success was the integration of modern technology with classical design—a cost-effective way to attract middle-class buyers.

Referenced in her New York Times obituary as the “wife of Diego Rivera, the noted painter,” Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) soared in fame posthumously. She became the first 20th-century Mexican artist to have work acquired by the Louvre. In the 1980s, numerous books were published about her work by feminist art historians and others.

Stacy Meteer is the communications and marketing associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Carrie Mae Weems and the Art of Change

In September, the National Museum of Women in the Arts launched a new public programs initiative, Women, Arts, and Social Change, focusing on women and the arts as catalysts for change. On Sunday, November 15, the museum hosted the second program in the series, FRESH TALK: Carrie Mae Weems—Can an artist inspire social change? The event’s audience provided thought-provoking commentary over Sunday Supper, through Twitter, and via comment cards. Here are a few highlights:

Carrie Mae Weems:  Keynote on an artist’s responsibility:

Weems gave a candid description of her artistic journey, saying that being an artist is “a very difficult thing to do, because you’re constantly living emotionally.”

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Carrie Mae Weems speaks at the second Women, Arts, and Social Change program; Photo: Kevin Allen

Weems’s project Social Studies 101 directly addresses the issues faced by the marginalized community of her hometown of Syracuse, New York. Syracuse has the highest concentration of extreme poverty among African Americans and Hispanics in the country. As part of her project, Weems created and displayed public billboards and lawn signs with messages including, “Stop the Senseless Violence” and “Our failure to respond is the problem!” Weems inspired the audience to think about the impact they can have on their communities.

Can art inspire social change?

Carrie Mae Weems was joined onstage by Raben Group president and founder Robert Raben. Washington Post columnist Lonnae O’Neal moderated the conversation, posing questions about the roles and spaces for art in current social justice movements, concepts of intersectionality, and the relationship between arts and policy.

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Left to right: Lonnae O’Neal, Carrie Mae Weems, and Robert Raben discuss how artists can inspire social change; Photos: Kevin Allen

During the discussion, Raben mentioned that much of what is known about the Civil Rights era is limited to a handful of stories, which have been curated by mainstream audiences. The annual March on Washington Film Festival, produced by the Raben Group, uses film, music, and art to share other relevant stories surrounding the period’s events and heroes—while inspiring a renewed passion for activism. Raben challenged, “If you care about social justice, you must care about changing the narrative.” Tweets about representation, identity, and otherness flooded the #FreshTalk4Change dialogue:

  • @VMPhoto3 quoted Weems [MT] How do you live a life without otherness. Mic drop.
  • @KiaWeatherspoon “Our history is miss-told” @RobertRaben #FreshTalk4Change
  • @eferry “Energized by Carrie Mae Weems on using art for social change #FreshTalk4Change #RBC”

Creating space for change:

Over Sunday Supper, attendees participated in lively discussions on  social justice issues among a diverse crowd. On one comment card, a participant said their experience “changed my opinion of what a museum can be.”

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Sunday Supper attendees discuss social justice with Carrie Mae Weems; Photos: Kevin Allen

Weems prompted the crowd to share their questions about how to integrate art with social change. Many artists in the audience mentioned that they hadn’t considered using art for social justice previously, but hoped to make it a key component in their future art-making practice.

The conversation initiated by Raben, O’Neal, and Weems empowered the audience to take ownership of their own stories as artists and social leaders. The conversation doesn’t stop here. Join the discussion and add your voice on Twitter with #FreshTalk4Change.

—Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell is the public programs coordinator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Righting the Balance: It Doesn’t Stop Here

NMWA’s latest initiative, Women, Arts, and Social Change, kicked off Sunday, October 18, with FRESH TALK: Righting the Balance. The new public program focuses on women and the arts as catalysts for change through a series of “Fresh Talks.”

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FRESH TALK panelists, Left: Maura Reilly, Sarah Douglas, and Jillian Steinhauer, Right: Guerrilla Girl Alma Thomas, Micol Hebron, Ghada Amer, and Simone Leigh; Photo: Kevin Allen

Women at the top of their art-world careers addressed the topic, “Can there be gender parity in the art world?” Curator and event co-organizer Maura Reilly, who wrote the central essay in the recent ARTnews magazine on women in the art world, introduced the event. Discussions featured Jillian Steinhauer of Hyperallergic, Sarah Douglas of ARTnews, Gabriela Palmieri of Sotheby’s, Mary Sabbatino of Galerie Lelong, artist Ghada Amer, artist Micol Hebron (organizer of Gallery Tally), artist Simone Leigh, Guerrilla Girl Alma Thomas, and activist/storyteller Jamia Wilson.

The goal of FRESH TALK is to keep the conversation going, and it wouldn’t be complete without input from participants, advocates, and women. We asked for your feedback during stimulating conversation over Sunday Supper and via comments. This is what you told us:

1. More women need to be heard.

Although the panel featured women from different backgrounds, talents, and career paths—Guerrilla Girl Alma Thomas was a highlight for many attendees—participants want to hear from more women of color and from the LGBT community. The next two FRESH TALK programs push these communities to the forefront of the discussion.

2. It’s time to get loud!

Artist Micol Hebron—one of the most-quoted speakers of the night—said, “If you don’t see something, say something!” When visitors notice a lack of representation of women, persons of color, and the LGBT community in museums, galleries, or other arts spaces, they should speak up! Collective voices can rally against these injustices.

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FRESH TALK attendees share their thoughts during Sunday Supper and through comment cards; Photo: Kevin Allen

3. Arts inequities are a problem for women of all ages.

A vast intergenerational audience exchanged views over Sunday Supper. Emerging women advocates sat with experienced professionals and passionately shared ideas about advancing the conversation. Intergenerational advocacy can be a strong resource in combating inequality.

4. Nonprofit art centers can make a difference too.

FRESH TALK attendees; Photo: Kevin Allen

FRESH TALK attendees Sheena Marie Morrison and Lauren Lyde; Photo: Kevin Allen

Panelists focused on data concerning gender inequity in the arts—particularly in sales and auction prices of art by women.

Nonprofit and alternative art spaces work as resources contesting the status quo. Many institutions thrive under the leadership of women, especially in D.C. We look forward to hearing more about the challenges that local centers face through an upcoming Cultural Capital series.

5. Now is the time to strike!

Fueled with the knowledge of engaging panelists, the event’s participants were inspired to take action. One commenter wants to host a protest for women artists, while another hopes to encourage her university gallery to collect and display work by women. An educator plans to empower her students to continue to challenge inequity.

It doesn’t stop here. Stay tuned for more FRESH TALK programs and get involved in the fight for gender equity in the arts. Mark your calendars for “Carrie Mae Weems: Can an artist inspire social change?” on November 15 and “Change by Design with Gabriel Maher and Alice Rawsthorn—Can design be genderless?” on January 27, 2016.

—Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell is the public programs coordinator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

NMWA receives Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom

On January 9, Director Susan Fisher Sterling accepted the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom on behalf of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, during a ceremony at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. As the first U.S. organization to be presented this prestigious award, NMWA joins the company of recipients such as Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and Russian novelist and civil rights activist Lyudmila Ulitskaya, honored for their contributions to women’s rights and free speech.

Left, Fabrice Hergott, director of the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris listens to remarks by Josyane Savigneau, chair of the jury prize; Right, Susan Fisher Sterling receives  the award from Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir; Photographs Université Paris Diderot, E. Descarpentri

Left, Fabrice Hergott, director of the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris listens to remarks by Josyane Savigneau, chair of the jury prize; Right, Susan Fisher Sterling receives the award from Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir; Photographs Université Paris Diderot, E. Descarpentri

The prize, which has been awarded since 2008, was created to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986). It honors women, men, and associations who, in the spirit of Simone de Beauvoir, fight to defend women’s rights wherever they are comprised. Chaired by Josyane Savigneau (writer and journalist for Le Monde), with founding president Julia Kristeva (professor at Paris Diderot University, writer, and psychoanalyst) and Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir (honorary president), the jury is composed of public figures from the world of arts and literature.

Belinda de Gaudemar, Connie Borde, Susan Fisher Sterling, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, and Tara Whitbeck, Les Amis du NMWA; Photographs Université Paris Diderot, E. Descarpentri

Belinda de Gaudemar, Connie Borde, Susan Fisher Sterling, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, and Tara Whitbeck, Les Amis du NMWA; Photograph Université Paris Diderot, E. Descarpentri

During her acceptance remarks, Sterling said, “We recognize the significance of this award and deeply appreciate the jury’s selection of NMWA for its dedication to foregrounding women’s free expression and filling the void in the recognition of women artists, past and present.” She discussed the museum’s mission and its worldwide committee-based network of volunteers and supporters, which had brought it to the attention of the jury. NMWA’s committees, Sterling said, “aid in promoting the museum’s message of equity for women through excellence in the arts. It is thanks to Les Amis du NMWA that I am here before you today and it is my pleasure to share the credit for this award with them today.”

The award ceremony in Paris occurred only two days after the attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and the same day that its perpetrators were killed in a related hostage incident. Sterling expressed her condolences, saying, “To you, who are active in the French press, cultural, and academic communities, we offer deepest sympathy. This tragedy reminds us that cultural expression has real power. It is one of the most visible and creative aspects of free societies, and must be safeguarded.”

The award was presented at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris; Photograph Université Paris Diderot, E. Descarpentri

The award was presented at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris; Photograph Université Paris Diderot, E. Descarpentri

These somber events underscored the importance of advocacy for equality and creative expression in the tradition of Simone de Beauvoir. Sterling acknowledged the generations of artists, art historians, critics, and curators whose work continues to provide inspiration for the museum and its mission. She noted, “I don’t believe it is an exaggeration to say that it is thanks to the space created for women’s creative projects by Simone de Beauvoir’s writings that our museum exists today.”

“Say It Enough and It Becomes . . .”

Despite everything we learned in school about sticks and stones, language has an immense impact on the world. Words transform perceptions, and once words are spoken they can continue to inform our thinking whether they are true or not. In her 1989 painting Untitled (141,257), Jane Hammond employs this transformative effect to demonstrate the ways in which words can negatively impact women artists before anyone even sees their actual work.

Jane Hammond, Untitled (141,257), 1989; Oil on linen; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocum

Jane Hammond, Untitled (141,257), 1989; Oil on linen; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocum; (c) Jane Hammond

Hammond, a self-described conceptual artist, has demonstrated throughout her career a fascination with the ways in which recognizable images shape our understanding of the world. She culls these images, which include superheroes, celebrities, and miscellaneous household objects, from postcards and pulp literature that she finds at garages sales and flea markets.¹ The center of Untitled (141,257) contains an example of that frequently appearing stock imagery, a familiar silhouette of a Victorian woman painting. However, what makes painting distinct in her oeuvre is the bold inclusion of language. Two words are repeated several times across the picture plane in boldface capital letters: “defensive” and “jitters.” These words form a loose frame around the woman, who is something of a cliché with her easel, brushes, and palette.

However, despite what she holds and what she is doing, viewers cannot solely see this woman as an artist. As a result of the proximity and visual intensity of the printed words that surround her, we cannot help but associate the depicted artist with the jitters and defensiveness. Due to their official-looking font and imposing black and red coloring, the words become like labels, informing the viewer what is before them. Whether we like it or not, these labels state that she is a defensive, jittery artist.

Two questions remain: Is she really defensive and jittery? And what kind of artist is she? Those questions will remain unanswered and her true identity will remain hidden, as the silhouette prevents the viewer from seeing what she or her work really looks like. But perhaps if we could see her face, we could note her calm demeanor. Or if we could just see her work, we could see a groundbreaking moment in the history of art. Unfortunately, there is no legitimate evaluative process that can take place here. All we have is the barrier of words.

As the feminist art collective Pussy Galore have shown us with their recent update of the Guerrilla Girls’ iconic 1986 report card, New York’s blue-chip galleries are far more likely to represent male artists than female artists, despite the fact that women make up the majority of practicing artists today. Untitled (141,257) speaks to the impact that reality has on women artists. If only we could see their work and evaluate it without preconceived labels, perhaps then we could see the full picture.

—Lucas Matheson is a development intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Note:
1. Douglas Dreishpoon, “Interview with Jane Hammond,” in Jane Hammond: Paper Works, exh. cat., ed. Marianne Doezema (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007), 30.

Women in the Arts: [Citation Needed]

The gender gap in the arts is narrowing, yet women continue to only make up around 25% of solo gallery shows, and in 30 years of prizes, a woman has only won the Turner Prize six times.

Editors at work at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Photograph by Kat Brewster

Editors at work at the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Photograph by Kat Brewster

Consider Wikipedia: It is often the first resource for any high-school or college research paper, any quibble about who starred in what movie, or, for that matter, any question asked of the internet. With almost 5 million English-language articles and growing (there is even a Wikipedia article that attempts to calculate the size and growing rate of Wikipedia), Wikipedia is a dominant digital source for human knowledge.

Then, consider the fact that Wikipedia reports that only 8.5% of its editors identify as female. With that lack of female voices contributing to the seventh most visited website on the entire internet, there’s going to be a worrying lack of representation. Couple the online gender disparity with the one found in the arts, and we’ve got a problem.

It’s possible that with the historic underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, some women feel that they lack the skills or confidence to contribute online. Recent events and longstanding dynamics—from Gamergate to any YouTube comment thread—may mean that women don’t feel safe creating content. But it doesn’t take a woman to write about a woman, so what explains the lack of female artists on Wikipedia? And if people aren’t writing about women artists, what’s the likelihood they’re learning about women artists? What are the consequences?

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the National Museum of Women in the Arts held a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to combat the gender disparities on the internet and in Wikipedia arts representation. The aim was to create, edit, and expand Wikipedia entries about female artists, as well as give women the skills to continue to contribute. With my friend Kim, my laptop, a cup of coffee, and a book about women in the arts (thanks, Library and Research Center!) I was more than ready to participate.

Photograph by Laura Hoffman

Photograph by Laura Hoffman

First, Wikipedia’s editing system is a little tricky to learn. I had worked with HTML in the past, but Wikipedia is its own beast. Thankfully, we were given a quick tutorial and a cheat sheet, so once I started with smaller editing commands for an hour or so, I felt confident diving into articles.

Here’s something I hadn’t anticipated: Wikipedia was always my go-to for reading about people (Millennial alert), which meant I couldn’t use it as a reference tool for quick facts. I hadn’t even realized my own dependency on Wikipedia until this moment, and it made it all the more important for me to add some content. So, I opened a book and started editing.

When I resurfaced hours later, I had contributed bits and pieces to articles about Cady Noland, A. L. Steiner, and Sophie Calle. These edits were small—largely adding citations, moving content, or adding to help with flow or cohesiveness—but I was surprisingly gratified to know that I had contributed to someone else’s knowledge of these artists. As a whole, Art+Feminism’s 2015 Wikipedia Edit-a-thon added 334 new articles to Wikipedia about female artists and, more importantly, gave me the confidence to continue contributing to Wikipedia in the future.

—Kat Brewster is a development events intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Looking Forward: Women to Watch 2015—Organic Matters

NMWA is thrilled to host the fourth Women to Watch exhibition, Organic Matters, from June 5 to September 13, 2015. Developed in collaboration with the museum’s national and international outreach committees, the exhibition will feature work by emerging and underrepresented artists from communities across the country and the world. Committees collaborate with curators in their regions to choose a shortlist of artists, and then NMWA curators select one from each region, whose work will be shown at the museum.

Reto Thüring

Reto Thüring

We spoke with the Ohio Committee’s collaborating curator Reto Thüring, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the United Kingdom’s Lisa Le Feuvre, Head of Sculpture Studies at the Henry Moore Institute, to hear about the exhibition and its flora and fauna theme as well as their curatorial process. Stay tuned for more information about this inventive exhibition in the coming months.

What is the role of women artists in your community?
Reto Thüring:
Cleveland has a small, but very active and diverse, art scene with many women at the forefront of artistic innovation and community engagement.

Lisa Le Feuvre: The UK has so many strong female artists whose work is shown across museums, galleries, and project spaces. Stunning exhibitions in the U.K. of work by women right now include Phyllida Barlow at Tate Britain, Marine Hugonnier at the Baltic, Nasreen Mohamedi at Tate Liverpool, and at the Henry Moore Institute Gego and Lygia Clark.

How did your selection process work for Women to Watch?

Lisa Le Feuvre

Lisa Le Feuvre

LLF: We discussed many artists’ work. It was a real reflection of how many strong women artists there are in the U.K. We carefully thought through how each artist addressed the theme of flora and fauna and also how being selected for the award might stimulate new connections for the artists.

RT: I worked with Rose Bouthillier, the curator at MOCA Cleveland who has an extraordinary knowledge of the regional art scene. We first assembled a list of women artists from the region whose work we liked and that had something to do with the theme of this year’s exhibition. We then shortened the list down to six artists whose work we found particularly noteworthy and interesting. This process was very exciting. The discussions were enriching, having two perspectives and four eyes turned out to be a huge advantage for the selection process. I hope the discursive nature of our selection process is reflected in the diversity of the artists that we selected.

How did you work with the flora and fauna theme?
RT:
We tried to interpret the theme of flora and fauna as openly as possible but without becoming arbitrary. We agreed from the start that it was more important to nominate artists whose work we believe in than to match the theme in a too literal way.

LLF: The theme is one that is enduring. It was a very exciting prospect to think about how artists have addressed rather than represented this topic. I think our shortlist really shows this.

Installation of High Fiber—Women to Watch 2012

Installation of High Fiber—Women to Watch 2012

Do you have any final thoughts on the exhibition?
RT:
I enjoyed looking at Cleveland’s art scene from a specific angle, and through that I discovered artists whose work I did not know before. The theme provided a productive angle as it was neither too limiting nor too open. Given the richness and quality of artists and works that we discovered in our region alone, I imagine that the exhibition in Washington will be a great success and a wonderful opportunity to discover new artists.

LLF: Very simply, I can’t wait to see it!

—Ginny DeLacey is the development associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.