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.

Opening Tomorrow: Border Crossing and New Ground

On Friday, February 17th, NMWA will open two exhibitions featuring women artists of the Southwest. In Border Crossing: Jami Porter Lara, Albuquerque-based artist Jami Porter Lara (b. 1969) uses a millennia-old process to make pottery resembling a ubiquitous icon of modern life—the plastic bottle. New Ground: The Southwest of Maria Martinez and Laura Gilpin explores the work of potter Maria Martinez (ca. 1887–1980) and photographer Laura Gilpin (1891–1979).

Jami Porter Lara, LDS-MHB-3SBR-0916CE-01, 2016; Pit-fired clay, 16 x 8 in. diameter; Courtesy Central Features Contemporary Art; Photo by Addison Doty

Jami Porter Lara, LDS-MHB-3SBR-0916CE-01, 2016; Pit-fired clay, 16 x 8 in. diameter; Courtesy Central Features Contemporary Art; Photo by Addison Doty

In Border Crossing, conceptual artist Jami Porter Lara explores connections between ideas that are typically set at odds: nature and artifice, art and trash, and past and present. Her works urge viewers to rethink these divisions by combining processes of the past with iconography of the present day. Her clay vessels, coil-built by hand, resemble the plastic bottle, an object that signifies recent human activity and material culture.

She takes inspiration from the remains of ancient pottery, which she has found scattered along the U.S.–Mexico border interspersed with the present-day detritus of migrants heading north. Porter Lara speaks of her work as a reverse archaeological process; she digs into issues of the present and the future by applying tools of the past. Using traditional methods to make contemporary vessels, Porter Lara recasts the throwaway plastic bottle and invites viewers to contemplate how time and place inform our interpretations of objects.

New Ground: The Southwest of Maria Martinez and Laura Gilpin presents a perspective on the Southwest contrary to dominant 19th- and 20th-century narratives, which typically cast the American West as a masculine place of staged romance or rugged conquest. Pueblo potter Maria Martinez and photographer Laura Gilpin brought the American Southwest into focus as a culturally rich region that fostered artistic expression.

Laura Gilpin, Upper End of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, ca. 1960s; Gelatin silver print, 10 ¾ x 13 ¾ in.; Eugene B. Adkins Collection at Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, and Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman; © 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Laura Gilpin, Upper End of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, ca. 1960s; Gelatin silver print, 10 ¾ x 13 ¾ in.; Eugene B. Adkins Collection at Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, and Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman

New Ground pairs 26 ceramic pieces by Martinez with more than 40 vintage photographs by Gilpin, offering documentary and physical connections between the land, the people, and their art-making traditions.

Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Storage jar, ca. 1940; Polished blackware pottery with matte paint, 16 x 22 ¼ in. diameter; Philbrook Museum of Art, Gift of Clark Field

Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Storage jar, ca. 1940; Polished blackware pottery with matte paint, 16 x 22 ¼ in. diameter; Philbrook Museum of Art, Gift of Clark Field

Martinez’s strikingly modern-looking vessels grew out of ancient Pueblo artistic traditions, which she and her husband, Julian, revived. Gilpin, hailed during her lifetime as the “grand dame of American photography,” is best known for her documentary prints, which include aerial landscapes and intimate portraits.

Works on view in both exhibitions transcend conventional ideas about Southwestern art and explore the region as a place where modernity reckons with the past.

Visit the museum and explore Border Crossing and New Ground, both on view through May 14, 2017.

Opening This Friday: NO MAN’S LAND

Large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids reveal the expressive range of women artists in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, on view from September 30, 2016, to January 8, 2017.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is collaborating with the Rubell Family Collection (RFC), Miami, to realize a new vision for the exhibition that opened at the RFC’s space in December 2015. The exhibition features 37 women artists whose aesthetically diverse work addresses wide-ranging intellectual and political themes. Although women historically had limited access to training and opportunity in the traditional fields of sculpture and painting, the title of the exhibition suggests “a space free from the rule of any sovereign power” where women artists are able to adapt and modify these mediums.

The highly focused selection of paintings and sculptures emphasizes the female body and the physical process of art-making. Ever since the feminist art movement of the 1960s and ’70s, these two themes have become prevalent avenues for experimentation, play, and subversion.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

During the feminist art movement, women artists claimed ownership over visualization of the body. Artists in NO MAN’S LAND explore this history and experiment with the expressive potential of the female form. Some artists, including Cecily Brown and Mickalene Thomas, adapt the art-historical theme of the odalisque by transforming its typically passive character. Others such as Hayv Kahraman use portraiture as a space for self-expression. Many of the works on view signify broader ideas about culture, gender, and ethnicity.

For artists in NO MAN’S LAND, the physical process of making is key to developing meaning, exploring intellectual conundrums, and conjuring psychological experiences. Painters and sculptors eliminate hierarchies among mediums by disrupting conventional ideas about women and handcraft. Historically defined as “women’s work,” handcraft remains a gendered topic in art. Artists including Analia Saban, Rosemarie Trockel, and Shinique Smith focus on unconventional materials or labor-intensive techniques. They upend tradition to suit their aesthetic and intellectual purposes.

Visit the exhibition before the public during the opening reception on September 29, 2016. See the full calendar of events for NO MAN’S LAND.

—Francisca Rudolph is the fall 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Appreciating Architecture: #EmptyNMWA Instameet

More than 25 D.C.-area Instagrammers visited NMWA on June 17, 2016, for a before-hours Instameet. With access to the empty galleries, local photographers explored the museum’s building and collection, as well as the special exhibitions She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World and Alison Saar In Print. Attendees including @2020_productions snapped photographs of the event’s snacks, including cookies inspired by the building’s façade. Participants explored the building’s history through a staff-led tour while sharing their tagged photos on social media with #EmptyNMWA.

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Left to right: @2020_productions photographs cookies; NMWA’s director of operations leads a tour

Gordon Umbarger, NMWA’s director of operations, explained the fascinating history behind the museum’s architecture. During an outdoor segment of the tour, attendees learned that Theodore Roosevelt laid the building’s cornerstone using the same gavel and trowel that George Washington used for the Capitol Building in 1793. @dc_explorer captured and shared this commonly overlooked feature.

Did you know that the building was first constructed as a Masonic temple in 1907 and women were not allowed entry? It seems fitting that today the building houses works by women artists! Visitors can detect traces of Masonic architecture around the museum. @korofina zoomed in on the building’s exterior frieze featuring the square and compass symbols. @buildings_of_dc captured the full building, which was designed in a Renaissance Revival style by prominent D.C. architect Waddy Wood, from a vantage point across street.

For additional income the Masons rented parts of the building to other local businesses, including George Washington University, a dentist, an insurance agent, and a uniform supply shop. The space hosted the Pix Theatre during the 1940s and early ’50s—until the Masons terminated the theater’s lease due to the sometimes racy nature of its movies. @kjhower1 captured decorative details that used to frame the movie screen.

In 1983, NMWA’s founders, Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, purchased the space and opened the museum to the public in 1987. Ten years later, the museum opened an addition within an adjoining building. Formerly a “D.C. pleasure palace,” the building was renamed the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing, and it now houses NMWA’s Museum Shop and sculpture gallery.

Participants found more Insta-worthy subjects inside the museum. @cczablotney snagged an incredible photo of the museum’s Great Hall and one of its iconic chandeliers while @kaitlyntward focused on the marble balustrades. @beingdave even observed the benches in the Great Hall designed by Florence Knoll. Visitors also ventured into the collection galleries and special exhibitions. @setarrra photographed another participant mirroring a photograph from Tanya Habjouqa’s “Women of Gaza” series, on view in She Who Tells a Story.

It was a fun and creative Instameet! To see all the event’s photos, check out the Storify compilation or browse #EmptyNMWA on Instagram. Follow @WomenInTheArts on Instagram and Twitter to learn about future Instameet opportunities.

—Casey Betts is the summer 2016 digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

On View: Salon Style in the Eulabee Dix Gallery

Like many museums, NMWA is only able to show a small portion—perhaps 3%—of its collection at any given time. Many objects stay safely tucked away in storage until curators select them for display. In an effort to place more of NMWA’s collection on view to the public, the staff recently reinstalled the Eulabee Dix Gallery, located on the museum’s fourth floor, “salon style.” Open to the public during weekday hours, this gallery now showcases an array of landscapes, interior scenes, portraits, and still lifes.

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NMWA’s Eulabee Dix Gallery before (left) and after re-installation (right)

The new salon-style installation—a selection of artworks of varying sizes, with mismatched frames, arranged in a crowded manner—allows the museum to exhibit more of its smaller paintings. For years there were fewer than a dozen paintings in the gallery. The recent reinstallation enables NMWA to exhibit more than 30 works, some of which have not been seen by the public in over a decade. Visitors can rediscover treasures from the museum’s collection and encounter new favorites.

Jane Peterson, Tower Bridge, ca. 1907; NMWA, Gift of Alice D. Kaplan

Jane Peterson, Tower Bridge, ca. 1907; NMWA, Gift of Alice D. Kaplan

Landscape paintings in the gallery depict scenes as varied as Jessey Dorr’s Lone Cypress (1906), which shows a tree overlooking a waterside cliff, Grandma Moses’s Calhoun (1955), a farm scene awash in yellows, and Gabriele Münter’s view of a mountain lake, Staffelsee in Autumn (1923).

Two paintings by Jane Peterson (1876–1965) are on view, a sunny Beach Scene (ca. 1935) and a watery, shadowed Tower Bridge (ca. 1907). In Tower Bridge, Peterson evokes misty London, with a nearby dock and distant bridge rising above the water.

Two works are on view by French painter Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938). Nude Arranging Her Hair (ca. 1916) exemplifies Valadon’s style: rich colors, dark outlines, textiles, and simplified forms, with an awkwardly posed subject.

Suzanne Valadon, Nude Arranging Her Hair, ca. 1916; Oil on canvas board, 41 ¼ x 29 ⅝ in.; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Suzanne Valadon, Nude Arranging Her Hair, ca. 1916; Oil on canvas board, 41 1/4 x 29 5/8 in.; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Valadon had no formal training—instead, she grew up in Montmartre and modeled for painters. She learned from the artists around her, including friend and mentor Edgar Degas, and successfully transitioned from model into artist. Valadon also painted floral still lifes. Her Bouquet of Flowers in an Empire Vase (1920), also on view, features her vibrant color palette, strong outlines, and palpable brushwork.

There are more still lifes to discover in the gallery, including two by Dutch painter and botanical illustrator Alida Withoos (ca. 1661–1730). She emphasized flowers’ growth and gave them a naturalistic appearance. Arrangements of cultivated flowers appear to grow from the earth, accentuated by blades of grass and a frog near the bottom.

With the new installation of the Eulabee Dix Gallery, visitors have the opportunity to encounter more work by women artists at NMWA, exploring the abundant details of these paintings and their salon-style neighbors.

The Eulabee Dix Gallery is located on the fourth floor of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, open to visitors Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

—Catherine Bade is the registrar and Elizabeth Lynch is the editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Pre-K Invasion: Developing New Tours for Young Audiences

This April, some of NMWA’s oldest paintings entertained the museum’s youngest audience. In a series of pilot tours for preschoolers, NMWA’s Education staff led 140 energetic Pre-K and kindergarten students through the galleries to examine portraits, colors, and shapes. Seated on rainbow-colored carpet squares, tiny visitors listened to stories, explored paintings, and experimented with diverse materials in their own art projects.

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Pre-K visitors explore poses and posture in front of Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Noblewoman; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

As the intern charged with crafting this new tour experience, I quickly realized that flexibility was key. Months of planning and research culminated in three thought-out lesson plans. However, unexpected obstacles still arose. School buses ran late, large events occupied the museum’s Great Hall, and an educator was accidentally scheduled to give two tours at once. I designed the tours to last 45 minutes, allow for ten students per educator, and conclude with an art-making activity in the Great Hall. In the end, the tours lasted an hour and art-making occasionally shifted locations.

Pre-K visitors experiment with art-making in the galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Pre-K visitors experiment with art-making in the galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Activities morphed based on the students’ interest, participation, and cooperation. Some of the preschoolers enjoyed using viewfinders to act like “color detectives” while other groups found the tool distracting. By the last program, we had figured out the most efficient ways to use materials in the galleries.

The art-making, movement activities, and stories captivated our young audience. The preschoolers found the dog in Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Noblewoman and the unicorn in Amy Sherald’s It Made Sense…Mostly in Her Mind easy to talk about—as well as the eye-catching outfits of each painting’s subject. They enjoyed mimicking shapes and lines with their bodies in front of Chakaia Booker’s Acid Rain and using “magic paintbrushes” to imagine the expressive brush strokes in Joan Mitchell’s Orange. Students were eager to mix oil pastels and rip colored tape in their hands-on art activities. While creating self-portraits, they used hand mirrors to admire their faces. They were proud to take their artwork home as a reminder of their experience.

Overall, the program was a huge success! Logistical hurdles aside, we received positive feedback from teachers and chaperones who thought the tours were engaging and age-appropriate. Hearing kids say, “Wow! This place is cool!” or mention how much fun they had made the entire experience worth every ounce of effort it took to make it happen. I am excited for the future of these tours and cannot wait to hear how they play out during the next school year.

—Valerie Bundy was the winter/spring 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is a former Pre-K teacher who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in museum education at the George Washington University.

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?”

Narrow 5WomenArtists for press release

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.

Opening tomorrow—“She Who Tells a Story”

Large-scale photographs by contemporary women artists illuminate their perspectives and challenge stereotypes in She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World, on view April 8–July 31, 2016.

More than 80 images by 12 artists are arranged around themes of Constructing Identities, Deconstructing Orientalism, and New Documentary. Photographs within these overlapping categories, most created within the last decade, explore the people, landscapes, and cultures of the region. The title of the exhibition was inspired by the Arabic word rawiya, which means “she who tells a story.”

The exhibition She Who Tells a Story at NMWA

The exhibition She Who Tells a Story at NMWA

Each artist in the exhibition offers a vision of the world she has witnessed, and each image invites viewers to confront their own preconceptions.

The exhibition features artists Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Shadi Ghadirian, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar, Shirin Neshat, and Newsha Tavakolian.

Constructing Identities

Public personas, private desires, and political convictions are reflected in photographs on view, such as several images from Beirut-born Rania Matar’s “A Girl and Her Room” series, portraits of teenage girls and young women in the privacy of their surroundings that are both intimate and universal.

Diversity within contemporary visual media from Iran and the Arab world is, in part, a product of the distinct regional identities in the Middle East. The photographers come from varied backgrounds, and they offer new perspectives on social, political, historical, and even universal identity.

Deconstructing Orientalism

A visitor studies Lalla Essaydi’s Bullets Revisited #3 (2012)

A visitor studies Lalla Essaydi’s Bullets Revisited #3 (2012)

The term “Orientalism” refers to depictions of the Middle East and East Asia by Europeans or Americans—romanticized visions that reflect the goals of Western colonialism and imperialism. The images in this section show the critical view contemporary artists have taken toward Orientalism, especially in regard to depictions of women and the hijab, or headscarf. Here women stage themselves as protagonists in dramatic settings, in contrast to the male-dominated Orientalist fantasy.

The triptych Bullets Revisited #3 (2012) by Moroccan-born Lalla Essaydi, evokes a 19th-century Orientalist painting, but she incorporates elements like calligraphy and bullet casings to comment on Western versus Eastern cultures as well as gender dynamics in the Arab world.

Visitors explore Gohar Dashti’s works at NMWA

Visitors explore Gohar Dashti’s works at NMWA

New Documentary

The images here combine artistic imagination with documentary techniques—from aerial photography to scenes of life amid conflict—to reflect contemporary experience.

Palestinian artist Rula Halawani’s “Negative Incursions” series is printed in negative to evoke the disorientation of conflict and to comment on media representations of the region.

She and the other photographers explore themes of urbanity, war, occupation, protest, and revolt, as well as concerns about the medium of photography itself. From the untold stories of Middle Eastern landscapes to those of urban anonymity, these works challenge the mass media and, more specifically, the present-day visual representation of the Middle East.

Learn more about She Who Tells a Story and related programs, and plan your visit soon!

Little Legs and Big Imaginations: Tours for Pre-K Visitors

NMWA hosts free and hands-on thematic tours for students in kindergarten through high school. This April, the museum launches a pilot series of tours created specifically for early learners—children ages 3–6. As the Education Department’s intern, I collaborated with the museum’s summer Teacher Institute alumni to create a Pre-K tour for NMWA. Teachers answered surveys, provided feedback on lesson plans, and signed up to bring more than 140 Pre-K students test the museum’s pilot tour.

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Valerie Bundy reads Hanoch Piven’s book to preschoolers; Photo: NMWA

I wanted to create an art-filled tour that would hold the interest of young minds. I considered which museum spaces were best for a young, energetic audience. Are objects positioned low enough for young children to see? Is there space for ten kids to sit comfortably without obstructing other visitors’ paths? Which art materials are allowed in the galleries? How do kids with little legs maneuver quickly through the museum?

Feedback from teachers, personal experience, and collaboration with staff helped answer these questions.

We decided to offer tours that are shorter than 60 minutes, focus on two artworks, and begin before public hours. This project will introduce early learners to art concepts in three categories: colors, shapes, and portraits. Before exploring the collection, students will listen to a story related to the theme of the tour: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, Perfect Square by Michael Hall, or My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil by Hanoch Piven.

On the tours, we will visit large artworks with a lot of visual interest—like Antoine Cécile Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot’s Young Woman Seated in the Shade of a Tree. Chakaia Booker’s attention-grabbing Acid Rain might be too accessible for little hands, so we wukk explain “museum manners.” They might be asked to look at Lynda Benglis’s Eridanus and re-create its shape and lines with their bodies, identify the colors in Elaine de Kooning’s Bacchus #3 using color-detective spyglasses, or pose like Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Noblewoman before creating their own self-portraits.

Students explore Chakaia Booker’s Acid Rain

Students explore Chakaia Booker’s Acid Rain; Photo: NMWA

In the museum’s Great Hall, our tiny visitors will have the opportunity for hands-on material exploration. We will encourage them to experiment with the process of creating by using materials like oil pastels, colored pencils, glue, fabric, and paper scraps. Because the Great Hall’s marble floor would be uncomfortable to sit on, we ordered carpet squares for the kids. Prioritizing the process of making over the final product, we hope to expose Pre-K audiences to authentic materials and get them inspired by NMWA’s collection. The museum’s Great Hall often provides a stunning backdrop for various elegant events, but it’s exciting to think of the space filled with rainbow-colored carpet squares, art supplies, and preschoolers with big imaginations.

—Valerie Bundy is the winter/spring 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is a former Pre-K teacher who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in museum education at the George Washington University.

Camera-Sly: #EmptyNMWA Instameet

On March 8, 2016, the museum hosted an #EmptyNMWA instameet (a gathering of Instagram photographers) in honor of International Women’s Day. NWMA welcomed 30 local instagrammers to visit the museum to tour and photograph the museum’s collection before public hours. Before the tour, attendees enjoyed refreshments on the museum’s Mezzanine—featuring staff-made cookies inspired by artwork from the collection.

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Left to right: Collection-inspired cookies; #EmptyNMWA participants in the Great Hall

In the museum’s Great Hall, NMWA Associate Curator Virginia Treanor drew attendees into the history of women artists through a discussion about 17th-century painter Louise Moillon. Because Moillon had limited resources and was barred from life-drawing classes, her renderings of fruit were executed with more skill than her depictions of figures.

Treanor revealed stories about women artists who had successful careers—despite their barriers—but had been scrubbed from art history texts, like Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot. Many ’grammers were surprised to learn that while women make up 51% of visual artists today, only 5% of work on museum walls in the U.S. is by women. Others struggled to name five women artists, but felt confident by the time they shared the #5womenartists challenge on social media after the event.

Drawing inspiration from the museum’s building and collection, @aquinsta shared the museum’s iconic Frida Kahlo self-portrait, @flipflopcaravan marveled at NMWA’s architectural history as a Masonic temple (where women were not allowed entry), and @thisisjamesj chronicled the morning on his blog.

Capturing new views of collection favorites, @dccitygirl incorporated a phone as an additional lens in front of Mickalene Thomas’s A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y (2009), while @jww_color snapped a bird’s-eye view of Honor Freeman’s porcelain Tupperware.

Browse more than 150 spectacular images posted from the #EmptyNMWA instameet on Instagram and Storify. Follow @WomenInTheArts to hear about future opportunities. Until the next instameet, visit the museum and keep ‘gramming!

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