This Women’s History Month, the UNM Art Museum is participating in the #5WomenArtists campaign created by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This campaign connects museums, arts organizations, artists, and art lovers to raise awareness of the presence and contributions of women and non-binary artists. The title of the campaign acts as a challenge; can you name five women artists off the top of your head? When the NMWA began asking this question in 2016, many people could not. Which is why the NMWA and partner institutions like the UNM Art Museum now use Women’s History Month as an opportunity to talk about the ongoing lack of gender diversity in the art world.
Part of this process is about transparency; what is the state of gender representation in contemporary arts organizations, and how can we move forward from here? At the UNM Art Museum, we face similar issues to many institutions. Our permanent collection is very largely male and white, due to historic collecting agendas and and patterns of acquisition. Of the 4,665 artists whose work is represented in the UNMAM’s collection, only 26% are women, and even within this disproportionately small percentage, even fewer of these artists are women of color. That’s the bad news. The good news is, now we have the opportunity to do better. Here are a few ways the museum is working to recognize and include women and non-binary artists as we move forward into the future.
Featuring exhibitions by living women artists.
In 2018, the UNMAM put on two exhibitions of work by contemporary women artists. The first, Eden Turned On It’s Side, featured the work of photographer and UNM Alumni Meridel Rubenstein. The second, a multi-media installation entitled Flight, was the work of local artist and creator of the Sanitary Tortilla Factory gallery space, Sheri Crider. This year, the UNMAM is currently sponsoring Deep Time Lab, a collaborative exhibition and artist-in-residence program with environmental artist Nina Elder.
Acquiring works by women/non-binary artists to include in the permanent collection.
The UNMAM recently acquired three works by Swinomish/Tulalip indigenous photographer Matika Wilbur. These works are photo-gravures from Wilbur’s series Project 562, which seeks to document the lived experience of individuals from the United States’ more than 562 Native American sovereign territories.
Increasing recognition of the women artists already present in the museum’s collection by featuring their work on our website and social media channels.
One of the most exciting parts about participating in the #5WomenArtists challenge is the chance it offers to talk about and share the work by women artists in our collection, exhibitions, and programming. This month we’ve been spotlighting works by women currently on view in our permanent collection show, Hindsight/Insight. We’re also featuring work by women artists in our collection whose work is not currently on view, but who we want to share with our visitors and patrons. Follow us on Instagram to see women artists in our collection all month long!
Women’s History Month is a great chance to talk about art, gender, and equity, but we want to continue these conversations beyond the month of March! Who are the women or non-binary artists that you think people should know about? What kind of work would you like to see at the UNM Art Museum? Let us know in the comments!