What percentage of art currently on display in US museums was made by women? According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, it is 5%. Even worse, less than 3% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 83% of the nudes are female. So hmm… it is 27 times more likely that a woman is featured nude in a painting, then to have been the featured artist. Not good.
The statistics on women in art are staggeringly poor, yet not widely publicized. Even though I am known as ‘fact girl’, these were ones I had not heard until I had the pleasure of hearing Susan Fisher Sterling, Director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), speak at an art talk in Park City this week. I also learned that this museum is the only major museum in the WORLD solely dedicated to recognizing women’s creative achievements in the arts.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts has been working to bring awareness to the lack of women represented on museum walls and in collectors portfolios since 1981, when the museum was founded by Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Wallace F. Holladay. In addition to advocating for women in the arts, the museum has worked to collect, preserve and display over 4,500 art works created by women. The Museum, which is located in downtown Washington DC, has 5 floors and over 80,000 square feet 100% dedicated to work by women. NMWA spotlights remarkable women artists of the past, while also promoting the best women artists working today.
My dear friend, and fellow Park City local, Susan Swartz, had her first major solo exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 2011. It was called Seasons of the Soul and since that time her work has become international recognized. She is but one example of amazing women artists whose careers have been enhanced and supported but this awesome institution. Another amazing woman to have a show at the museum is Carrie Mae Weemes. She is preeminent photographer that I just happen to have in my collection. If you have not heard of her, please check out her web-site. One thing Susan Fisher asked in her remarks were “how many famous women artists can you name?” Think about it. The answers are likely a lot fewer in number than for male artists, and that needs to change. Thanks to this museum, it likely well.
In 2014 NMWA launched a bold new programmatic initiative called Women, Arts and Social Change. Through a series of public programs, the initiative will highlight the power of women and the arts as a catalyst for solutions to society’s most pressing issues, particularly those affecting women and girls. I am really excited to see where this new initiative will take the museum and how it will continue to engage new and younger audiences about the importance of women in the arts. This aligns beautifully to the work I am doing with Women Moving Millions to promote documentary film as a tool for social next. Next week I will be in New York for a full day workshop, and I will travel to Dallas for a similar event on May 7th.
I invite you to suport NMWA and please visit their website at https://nmwa.org/
Photo above – Robin Marrouche, Director of the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Susan Fisher Sterling, and yours truly.