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?”

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.

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.