Righting the Balance: It Doesn’t Stop Here

The Call for More Female Diversity is Loud and Strong

Any woman will tell you that there’s a long way toward equality for women—be it in Hollywood, the boardroom or the art world.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. is leading the discussion by offering an ongoing platform to advance ideas and solutions to society’s pressing issues—especially those affecting women and girls—on topics like gender, identity and race. The signature program of the new Women, Arts, and Social Change initiative launched on Oct. 18 with “FRESH TALK: Righting the Balance.”

Women at the top of their art-world careers addressed the issue, “Can there be gender parity in the art world?” Curator and event co-organizer Maura Reilly, who wrote the main essay in a recent ARTnews magazine devoted to women in the arts, introduced the event. Discussions featured Jillian Steinhauer of Hyperallergic, Sarah Douglas of ARTnews, Gabriela Palmieri of Sotheby’s, Mary Sabbatino of Galerie Lelong, artist and creator of The Gallery Tally Project Micol Hebron, artists Ghada Amer, Simone Leigh, and 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. The museum asked for feedback during stimulating conversation over Sunday Supper and via social media comments at #FreshTalk4Change.

Here is what was said:

More women need to be heard.

Although the panel featured women from different backgrounds, talents and career paths, Guerrilla Girl Alma Thomas, a member of the organization that has been fighting for women’s equality in the art world for more than 30 years, 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.

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.

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.

Nonprofit art centers can make a difference too.

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.

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.On November 15,“Carrie Mae Weems: Can an artist inspire social change?” was presented, and there will be more in 2016 and beyond starting with “Change by Design with Gabriel Maher and Alice Rawsthorn—Can design be genderless?” on Jan. 27, 2016.


By Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, public programs coordinator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts



Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Founded in 1981 and opened in 1987, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts. The museum’s collection features 4,700 works from the 16th century to the present created by more than 1,000 artists, including Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Alma Thomas, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Chakaia Booker and Nan Goldin, along with special collections of 18th-century silver tableware and botanical prints. NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., in a landmark building near the White House. It is open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday, noon–5 p.m. For information, call 202-783-5000 or visit nmwa.org. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA members and youths 18 and under. Free Community Days take place on the first Sunday of each month.

National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts.

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