“Greetings” from the Archive

Between the years 1910 and 1915, American painter, illustrator, and printmaker Dulah Evans Krehbiel, along with artisans called the “Ridge Craft Girls,” designed a line of greeting cards.

Dulah Evans Krehbiel card, The Ridge Crafts, Parkridge Illinois 1911; National Museum of Women in the Arts Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center

Dulah Evans Krehbiel card, The Ridge Crafts, Parkridge Illinois 1911; National Museum of Women in the Arts Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center

Originally created for the Park Ridge Art Colony, the sample sales book of these cards, containing hand-painted greeting cards, place cards, and book plates, is now in the archival collection of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center. With the holiday season approaching, the Library has taken on its first digitization project, making these beautiful cards accessible online to help spread the cheer and maybe even strike up inspiration for viewers’ holiday cards.

Dulah Marie Evans Krehbiel circa 1908

Dulah Marie Evans Krehbiel circa 1908

Dulah Marie Evans was born on February 17, 1875, to David and Marie Ogg Evans, pioneer residents of Oskaloosa, Iowa. She graduated from The Art Institute of Chicago and completed her postgraduate work at the Art Students League in New York, where she won many first-place awards in illustration. She later studied at the New York School of Art under William Merritt Chase.

In 1906 she moved her studio to Park Ridge, Illinois, after marrying fellow Art Institute student Albert Krehbiel. Dulah and Albert were part of the Park Ridge Art Colony, a group whose goal was to create a society that would work for the encouragement of artistic culture. This colony is where Dulah Krehbiel and the Ridge Craft group designed and produced their line of greeting cards. These detailed and ornate engraved images and colored lithographs were designed by Krehbiel and hand painted by the Ridge Craft Girls. The set of 194 cards contain beautiful, delicate drawings, vivid colors, and incredible detail that evoke holiday cheer.

Dulah Evans Krehbiel card, The Ridge Crafts, Parkridge Illinois 1911; National Museum of Women in the Arts Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center

Dulah Evans Krehbiel, who had become known as the “Park Ridge Modernist,” died on July 24, 1951, but her work lives on in galleries across the country and in the archives of the LRC.

Check out the library’s flickr and pinterest pages, take a look at these charming cards, and share them with your loved ones this holiday season!

—Molly Krost is the Library and Research Center intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Art of Change: New Trends in Activist Art

“Contemporary art has within itself the possibility to effect powerful change.”

Earlier this fall, National Museum of Women in the Arts Director Susan Fisher Sterling traveled to Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, to present at the World Economic Forum’s eighth Annual Meeting of the New Champions. The Forum’s goal is to improve the state of the world by bringing together industry leaders to discuss and implement societal change. Sterling’s talk focused on five contemporary artists who are advancing innovative ideas and helping to drive solutions to some of society’s most pressing issues. She believes that artists have the potential to be agents for social change.

Sterling described similarities between contemporary artists and social activists Mel Chin, Natalie Jeremijenko, Theaster Gates, Caledonia Curry (Swoon), and the Documentary Group. She presented dynamic activist art as the art of the future.

“For many of you their works may not seem like art, but that is precisely the point. Their work, which is called the art of social practice, fits between art and life,” said Sterling. “They are today’s art world innovators in the real world.”

From collaborating with children around the country—children created “fundred” dollar bills to assist in the eradication of lead poisoning in New Orleans—to turning dilapidated buildings into places of beauty and respite, NMWA’s director showed how these artists use their practices to empower change.

“This is a direction that my museum is going in. This is a movement, the art of social practice…there is a need for new champions for this movement. My hope is that the National Museum of Women in the Arts, through its programming, will help it along its way.”

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

Artist Spotlight: Margaret Salmon’s Video Ode to New Mothers

In 2005 Margaret Salmon (b. 1975, NY) received the inaugural Max Mara Art Prize for Women, which awarded her the opportunity to complete a six-month residency in Italy to further develop her filmic video practice. Between attending intensive Italian courses at the American Academy in Rome and living like a local in the small town of Biella, she shot Ninna Nanna (2007), a triptych video installation featuring three new mothers with their young children, now on view in Total Art: Contemporary Video.

Installation view of Margaret Salmon, Ninna Nanna, 2007; 3-screen installation of 16-mm films transferred to DVD; Collection of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Museum purchase through the contributions of members of the  Contemporary Acquisitions Council and the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund, 2008; Photo Jake Erlich

Installation view of Margaret Salmon, Ninna Nanna, 2007; 3-screen installation of 16-mm films transferred to DVD; Collection of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Photo Jake Erlich

In NMWA’s galleries, three side-by-side projector screens hold shared moments between three mother-child pairs in their homes or going about errands. Captured by Salmon on her 16-mm handheld camera, the mothers provide musical accompaniment by singing the popular Florentine lullaby “Coscine di Pollo,” which translates affectionately to “Little Chicken Thighs.” Sometimes in sync, sometimes as solo performances, the ninna nanna—the Italian word for lullaby—is sung as a tired, absentminded mantra for the sustained quietude of both mother and child.

Margaret Salmon, Ninna Nanna, 2007; 3-screen installation of 16-mm films transferred to DVD; Collection of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Museum purchase through the contributions of members of the  Contemporary Acquisitions Council and the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund, 2008; Image courtesy of the artist and Office Baroque, Brussels

Margaret Salmon, Ninna Nanna, 2007; 3-screen installation of 16-mm films transferred to DVD; Collection of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Image courtesy of the artist and Office Baroque, Brussels

As a new mother herself during her residency in Italy, Salmon began observing and documenting the physical bonds and social reciprocities of the mother-child relationship. After Salmon met one of the featured mothers while they were both at the playground with their children, she visited several local women in their homes to record their daily routines without any direction or desired outcome. Salmon’s manner of filming was inspired by Italian neorealist cinema as well as cinéma vérité, film movements that prioritized accessible stories of everyday people over grand cinematic productions featuring theatrically trained actors.

Salmon was influenced by the inventive style of Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical 8 1/2 (1963), as well as Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), a film chronicling the monotonous routines of a Belgian mother and housewife. Akerman’s film highlights the screen-worthy drama in domestic settings, regularly overlooked by filmmakers up to that point.

Alternating between black-and-white and color video, and regular and accelerated motion, Ninna Nanna is considered a poetic rendering of the daily minutiae of everyday life. While many of Salmon’s videos use this documentary style to reflect on the repetitious, quotidian details of our lives, this work remains focused on universal rituals and intimacies specific to motherhood.

The intense physicality of the work of mothering—feeding, bathing, rocking, toting—combined with the emotional work of soothing, cuddling, and playing, begets a sweet yet tedious intimacy between mother and child. The sense of intimacy is furthered by Salmon’s decision to film her subjects and edit the content on her own, without the help of a crew. This experience of mother-child closeness is echoed between the artist and subjects; it is extended to the viewer as Salmon’s camera lingers on detailed textures of faces, fabrics, furniture, and lighting within these family homes.

Margaret Salmon, Ninna Nanna, 2007; 3-screen installation of 16-mm films transferred to DVD; Collection of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Museum purchase through the contributions of members of the  Contemporary Acquisitions Council and the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund, 2008; Image courtesy of the artist and Office Baroque, Brussels; Photo Laura Hoffman

Margaret Salmon, Ninna Nanna, 2007; 3-screen installation of 16-mm films transferred to DVD; Collection of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Photo Laura Hoffman

Reminiscent of watching dear relatives’ home movies, Ninna Nanna allows the viewer to identify with the women’s contentment, isolation, and exhaustion. Salmon celebrates this rollercoaster experience in a video that is dedicated to the new, intensely interdependent relationship between mother and child, ultimately acknowledging the bond as an archetypal relationship that is experienced in some form by all humans.

To learn more about the artist and Ninna Nanna, visit the museum for a short conversation piece with NMWA Digital Media Specialist Laura Hoffman on Wednesday, August 13, at noon!

—Kelly Johnson is the publications and marketing/communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Judy’s Diamond Jubilee

Today is a very special day for the legendary Judy Chicago—her 75th birthday!

Over her 75 years, Judy Chicago has made a prominent name for herself as an artist, author, educator, and source of inspiration for men and women all over the globe. After producing installation pieces such as Womanhouse (1972) and The Dinner Party (1975), Chicago achieved international stardom as a pioneer of the feminist art movement in the 1970s.

Judy Chicago at NMWA with museum Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; Photo Laura Hoffman

Judy Chicago at NMWA with museum Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; Photo: Laura Hoffman

In order to commemorate this dynamic period of Chicago’s career and the coinciding feminist movement, NMWA held an exhibition of her work earlier this year, Judy Chicago: Circa ’75. In March, Chicago visited the museum for an opportunity to speak to NMWA’s members and guests about the exhibition as well as her newest book, Institutional Time: A Critique of Studio Art Education.

During the conversation, Chicago applauded NMWA, saying, “as long as MoMA is a museum of men, we need a museum for women in the arts.” She described her regular past visits to the museum, noting how “every time I walk into [NMWA] I see my predecessors and what they had to go through to get here.”

At the end of the discussion, NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling presented Chicago with personalized cards to celebrate her birthday and pay homage to her incredible artistic achievements. Chicago was touched by the heartfelt gesture by the members, noting that she wanted to read their notes right then and there.

Cards from NMWA members to Chicago: “Thank you for sharing wisdom and beauty with your powerful art!”

Cards from NMWA members to Chicago: “Thank you for sharing wisdom and beauty with your powerful art!”

In Institutional Time, Chicago discusses her legacy, stating “I became determined to use my time on earth to create art—as much of it as possible . . . and to make a place for myself in art history.” Now, on her 75th birthday, Chicago has irrefutably, permanently left her mark on modern discourses of art history. Happy birthday to this visionary artist!

—Olivia Zvara is the member relations intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Monument Quilt

On Saturday, March 1, one hundred red quilts containing survivors’ stories of rape and abuse were laid out in the lawn of the Capitol Building. This installation—called the Monument Quilt, aims to provide a public healing space for the survivors. The project was organized by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, an art and feminist activist group based in Baltimore.

MonumentQuilt

The Monument Quilt is not the first quilt used to raise public awareness on an otherwise neglected issue. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived in 1985 by gay rights activist Cleve Jones in response to the AIDS pandemic in the ’80s. The quilt memorialized those who died of the disease. The NAMES Project Foundation—Jones’s group, which organized the implementation of the project—mentions the importance of the medium of quilt-making. Its website states, “The Quilt has redefined the tradition of quilt-making in response to contemporary circumstances. A memorial, a tool for education and a work of art, the Quilt is a unique creation, an uncommon and uplifting response to the tragic loss of human life.” The NAMES Project Foundation’s inaugural display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall on October 11, 1987 was attended by half a million visitors. Since then, the quilt and its popularity have grown exponentially and it continues to be displayed around the country.

Following in the footsteps of the NAMES Project Foundation, FORCE aims to eventually install its own monumental quilt display on the National Mall. During the March 1st event, roughly 300 visitors viewed the quilts, but FORCE hopes to expand its reach. The group believes that the Monument Quilt will be the perfect vehicle for change, stating on its website that “[b]y stitching our stories together, we are creating and demanding public space to heal… We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed.”

As a final display, after amassing quilt squares from survivors across the country, The Monument Quilt will be displayed over one mile of the National Mall to spell “NOT ALONE.” In the meantime, the website for the Monument Quilt has listed ways for interested participants to volunteer as well as instructions on how to submit a quilt square.

—Kyla Crisostomo is a publications and marketing/communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Many of the quilts on view in “Workt by Hand” memorialize or make statements, like the Monument Quilt—come to NMWA to see them before April 27!

Behind-the-Scenes: NMWA Joins the Google Art Project

We were so excited about our March 8 launch on the Google Art Project! A great deal of work went into posting the 59 artworks from NMWA’s collection and the virtual museum tour (and it was a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!). Here is an insider’s glimpse of the process along with some behind-the-scenes pictures:

Photography of NMWA’s Collection:

Google_Stalsworth_Photo_Shoot

Photographer Lee Stalsworth shooting NMWA’s collection; Photo credits: Laura Hoffman

For the Google Art Project, we photographed the selected artworks in extremely high resolution, since a unique facet of the project is its capability to showcase artworks online so that viewers are able to zoom in on hard-to-see details. While our preparator carefully unframed the pieces, art photographer Lee Stalsworth went to great lengths to capture the artworks perfectly, including using a new, state-of-the-art camera, testing the light and color balance with meters, and adjusting the photography environment with light reflectors.

Gigapixel Photo-shoot:

Google_Gigapixel

Google team captures “gigapixel” image (left), artwork detail (right); Photo credit: Laura Hoffman

Google photographed one of the artworks, Rachel Ruysch’s Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (ca. 1680s), using “gigapixel” photo-capturing technology. The image contains around 7 billion pixels, enabling users to become immersed in the artwork’s details, even those that are invisible to the naked eye. Even the smallest movements, vibrations, or light can throw off the complicated process of capturing the “gigapixel” photograph. Zoom in for yourself on the artwork to find all the insects, flora, and grains of pollen!

Museum View Virtual Tour:

Google_Museum_View_Shoot

Google team moving through the museum with the “trolley;” Photo credits: Laura Hoffman

NMWA staff also worked with a team at Google to create a virtual tour of the museum, called the Museum View. This feature allows people to explore our galleries online, select artworks that interest them, click to discover more, and dive into high-resolution images, where available. Google’s specially-designed Street View “trolley” took 360-degree images of selected galleries, which were then digitally stitched together to create smooth navigation within the museum.

We hope you enjoy our work in the Google Art Project—stay tuned as we add more artworks and galleries to the Google Art Project in the future!

—Laura Hoffman is the digital media specialist at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Common Threads: Staff Quilt Stories

In honor of National Quilting Month and NMWA’s current exhibition “Workt by Hand”: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts, NMWA staff members share their quilt stories and memories:

“I didn’t know there were quilters in my family until after ‘Workt by Hand’ opened. I mentioned to my mother that it felt strange not having a quilt story, and that’s when I learned that my great-grandmother, Rossie Webber, was an award-winning quilter. Her double wedding ring quilt won first prize at the Cleveland County Fair in North Carolina, ca. 1941.”—Ashley, Assistant Educator

Ashley's quilt (left) and Stephanie's (right)

Ashley’s quilt (left) and Stephanie’s (right)

“My aunt took up quilting when she and her husband bought a farm in Indiana. She had no ties to the area but figured quilting would be a good way to assimilate into ‘farm life.’ She made quilts for me and each of my sisters to mark our 16th birthdays, customizing them to our individual tastes. Knowing nothing about quilts then, I was so impressed with my aunt’s quilt when I received it with its multi-colored patches in a seemingly random array of mismatched pieces. Now having seen Workt By Hand’, I can attribute my quilt to taking after the Crazy Quilt genre. It’s crazy and bright, and I love it.” —Stephanie, Curatorial Assistant

AIDS Memorial Quilt; Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

AIDS Memorial Quilt; Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“The most memorable quilt to me is the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Not only has the quilt been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but it is also the largest community art project in the world and has been traveling the globe since its inaugural display in Washington, D.C., in 1987. Today, the quilt in its entirety includes over 48,000 individual three-by-six-foot memorial panels, most of which commemorate the life of someone who has died of AIDS.”—Gordon, Director of Operations

Quilts that Laura received for her Bat Mitzvah (left) and at birth

Laura’s quilts from Kathy

“A family friend, Kathy, made my sister and me quilts for major milestones in our life (birth, Bat Mitzvah, etc.) Each quilt was specific to both the person and the occasion, and they were always inscribed, ‘Love, Kathy.’ They are among the few gifts I distinctly remember receiving, and I have cherished them over the years. Though Kathy passed away this year, I still sleep under her quilt when I visit home, and I feel connected to her.”—Laura, Digital Media Specialist

Ginny's family quilt

Ginny’s family quilt

“My mother’s quilt, which currently lives in my office in honor of the ‘Workt by Hand’ exhibition, came from my great-great Aunt Fanny and Uncle Bob Thompson who lived in McHenry, Illinois. We think it dates from the 1920s, and it was most likely part of her wedding trousseau. I believe my grandmother received the quilt after Uncle Bob passed away in the 1980s.”—Ginny, Associate Curator

Do you have a quilt story to share? Add it to the comments section below, or comment on NMWA’s other social media sites—thank you!

The Nuances of Collaboration

Quilting has long been viewed nostalgically as a collaborative activity among women, but over time these pieces have also been created by groups or individuals with complex or dubious motivations. Often, true collaborations simply meant teamwork between groups of women to create quilts efficiently. Through quilting bees, women were able to gather, sew, and find social relief from their homes. The photograph in “Workt by Hand” of the Ladies’ Aid Society at Mt. Zion United Brethren shows the group proudly displaying their collective quilt with each of their signatures stitched into the fabric. This image shows the communal nature of the task and the shared sense of ownership the group had over the final product.

Russell Lee, Women looking at quilting and crocheting exhibit at Gonzalez County Fair. Gonzales, Texas, November 1939. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Russell Lee, Women looking at quilting and crocheting exhibit at Gonzalez County Fair. Gonzales, Texas, November 1939. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Fairs also provided a venue for quilters to connect. Sanitary Fairs were popular among women after the start of Civil War. Women volunteered their quilts both as charity to soldiers, and as goods to fundraise for war relief efforts. At other times, fairs were not so politically charged. In Russell Lee’s 1939 image titled Women looking at quilting and crocheting exhibit at Gonzalez County Fair, a cluster of women can be seen admiring the quilts displayed at a county fair. These fairs provided a space not only for leisurely gathering, but also for sharing and exchanging pattern ideas.

“Home-Made Quilts of U.S. Represent $675,000 in Labor.” The Pensacola Journal. February 24, 1907. Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Washington, D.C.

“Home-Made Quilts of U.S. Represent $675,000,000 in Labor.” The Pensacola Journal. February 24, 1907. Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Washington, D.C.

Yet in some cases, “collaboration” in quilting produced less equality and community among women and instead stressed the social hierarchy between them. In the “Value and Labor” section of “Workt by Hand”, it is mentioned that for many women, quilting was not merely a hobby, but a source of income. For instance, after the Civil War, African American seamstresses would create quilts that would then be attributed to white households.

This exploitation of quilt creators by quilt owners is highlighted in the book American Icons by Dennis Hall and Susan G. Hall, which tells of the controversy in the 1933 Sears and Roebuck quilt competition in the Chicago World Fair. Margaret Rogers Caden of Lexington, Kentucky, was awarded the grand prize of $1,000 for the intricate padding of her quilt. Unknown to the judges, however, although Caden had signed the entry documents stating the work was entirely her own, she in fact had hired four other Kentucky women to make the quilt for her. In the midst of the Great Depression, these four women had no means of protesting, for doing so would have meant losing their jobs. Situations like this dispel the notion that quilting, because of its feminine nature, was untouched by social corruption.

It is important to understand that quilting had a politics of its own. Historical images and photographs in “Workt by Hand”, on view at NMWA through April 27, help visitors situate the beautiful quilts on view within the quilters’ more complex social and economic contexts.

—Kyla Crisostomo is the publications and marketing/communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Now open at NMWA: Signature Line

On the evening of Monday, May 20, the National Museum of Women in the Arts hosted a reception in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy, Washington, D.C., in honor of the exhibition Bice Lazzari: Signature Line.

Il Cerchio (The Circle), 1967; Tempera and pencil on canvas; Courtesy of Archivio Bice Lazzari

Il Cerchio (The Circle), 1967; Tempera and pencil on canvas; Courtesy of Archivio Bice Lazzari

Remarks were made by NMWA Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, His Excellency Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero of Italy, and NMWA Chief Curator Kathryn Wat. In addition, a charming short video was also presented of the director of the Archivio Bice Lazzari in Rome, Mariagrazia Lapadula, who lent the works for the exhibition. Visitors enjoyed the remarks and toured the gallery where Lazzari’s paintings and drawings are on view.

Remarks at the opening were given by NMWA Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, left, and His Excellency Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero of Italy, who also presented a video recording of the director of the Archivio Bice Lazzari in Rome, Mariagrazia Lapadula

Remarks at the opening were given by NMWA Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, left, and His Excellency Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero of Italy, who also presented a video recording of the director of the Archivio Bice Lazzari in Rome, Mariagrazia Lapadula

Signature Line features paintings and drawings by Lazzari, whose work commonly features sets of hand-drawn lines, often over fields of color. Her style was influenced by Art Informel, a European free-form abstract movement that has parallels with Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting. Lazzari’s goal was to move beyond form and use her art to evoke pure emotion.

Autoritratto (Self-Portrait), 1929; Oil on cardboard; and Senza titolo (untitled), 1966; Pastel on paper; both courtesy Archivio Bice Lazzari

Left: Autoritratto (Self-Portrait), 1929; Oil on cardboard; and right: Senza titolo (untitled), 1966; Pastel on paper; both courtesy Archivio Bice Lazzari

Bice Lazzari: Signature Line is open through September 22 at NMWA—make plans to visit this summer!

Bice Lazzari: Signature Line is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in collaboration with the Embassy of Italy, Washington, D.C., and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Rome, with additional support from the members of NMWA.

The exhibition is presented as part of 2013—Year of Italian Culture in the United States, an initiative held under the auspices of the President of the Italian Republic and organized by Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C., with the support of the Corporate Ambassadors Eni and Intesa Sanpaolo

Movies, Masons, and More: The Peculiar Past of NMWA’s Building

NMWA is one of 25 sites in D.C. with the chance to win up to $100,000 from Partners in Preservation (PiP), an initiative of American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Funds from this grant would help finance much-needed roof repairs—not so glamorous-sounding, but necessary—so that NMWA can stay focused on its mission of presenting and promoting fantastic women in the arts!

PiP-1blueprintWith a history as varied as the museum’s collection, NMWA’s building is a work of art in itself. Designed in a Renaissance-revival style, the six-story structure embodies orderliness and civic grandeur. Constructed by one of D.C.’s most prominent architectural firms (and famed architect Waddy Wood), the building was received landmark status in 1984. Purchased by NMWA in 1983, the building opened as a museum in 1987 after extensive renovations.

Ironically, the building was originally constructed as a Masonic Temple—women were not allowed entry.  Masonic symbols, such as carved squares and compasses, can still be seen in the museum’s architecture. The clearest symbols are on the building’s façade, particularly those in a frieze above the fourth floor. Visitors may spot some vestiges within the walls as well.

BuildingDetailBefore showing art, the building showed movies. In 1916, a first-floor theater began showing silent films. In the 1940s and early 1950s the Pix Theater ran racy “exploitation films” until resulting controversies caused their lease not to be renewed. Seven years later, the Town Theatre opened and played blockbuster films like Hitchcock’s Psycho until its closing in 1983.

The wedge-shaped building was also home to several small offices and shops during its first 20 years. A dentist, an insurance agent, and a uniform supply outfitter all operated on the second floor above the movie theater. From 1910 through ’21, the upper floors contained George Washington University’s law library, and a USO canteen was housed in the basement during World War II.

NMWA today

NMWA today

In 1997, the museum incorporated an adjacent property to create the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing. The space now houses NMWA’s gift shop and sculpture gallery—more palatable uses than its past function as the “D.C. Pleasure Parlor.”

Although visitors can’t take advantage of the building’s previous functions by watching movies or getting their teeth cleaned, they can enjoy NMWA’s collection of art by many of the world’s most significant women artists. The building itself is seen as an embodiment of the museum’s mission—it is a place for women artists—and funds for vital roof repairs will ensure the continued integrity of its structure.

Popular votes on social media will determine some of the grants. Voters can chime in for NMWA once every day by registering on the PiP website or logging in on PiP’s Facebook page. By using the hashtag #NMWA in Twitter or Instagram posts, and by checking in on Foursquare, voters can help NMWA earn extra points!

Also, save the date! Drop by on May 5 for an open house and “Raise the Roof” with GirlsRock! DC!