In 2017, Women & Their Work, Women’s Studio Workshop, Women Make Movies, and New York Women in Film and Television formed the Women’s Art Consortium. Each of these organizations was founded as part of the second wave feminist movement in the 1970s and is unique in having survived, transformed, and thrived for more than 40 years.
Over the course of 18 months and three in-person convenings, all four organizations engaged in collective reflection on a central question: What will it take to adapt to and cultivate the next generation of arts leadership to address current issues of inequality for women in the arts? This report highlights key insights and outcomes that emerged for these groups during the three meetings and through other interaction and communication. Together, the following sections comprise the report:
1. PREAMBLE: THE PROCESS AND THE VALUE OF COLLECTIVE SPACE
- A discussion of the Women’s Art Consortium framework, including foundational questions, infrastructural aspects of each convening, and the overall aims of the project.
2. WHAT IS A WOMEN’S ARTS ORGANIZATION?
- What defines and differentiates women’s arts organizations? The four organizations generally agreed on six characteristics, which highlight the need for intersectionality in a feminist approach, the examination of existing power structures, and the creation of economic resiliency among the organizations’ constituents.
3. ADAPTATION TO A CHANGING LANDSCAPE
- An examination of the change at the micro, meso, and macro levels, which correspond to working with and for individual artists, building strong organizations, and identifying gender and intersectional discriminatory practices.
4. CHALLENGES FACING WOMEN’S ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY
- A statistical approach to challenges, whereby we see the continued inequities faced by organizations serving women and girls, in addition to a lack of data around the impact that organizations of this nature have.
5. THE SECRET SAUCE: WHAT MAKES THRIVEABILITY POSSIBLE?
- By considering the ‘ingredients’ for success, participants identified a clear mission, intersectional social activism, enterprising entrepreneurship, and consistent leaders as the secret sauce for longevity and adaptability.
6. NEXT STEPS: STOKING SUCCESS FOR THE NEXT 40 YEARS
- Participants reflected on and developed a larger vision for the power and impact of women’s arts organizations in the coming years.
- When asked to process the Consortium as a whole, participants focused on avenues to systemic change.
Collectively, the four organizations have reached and assisted more than 30,000 women artists. The attention currently being paid to the issues and injustices that women in media and the arts have faced is due in part to the groundwork laid by organizations like these over 40 years.
Grantmakers in the Arts Conference is October 13-16, 2019. Learn about the Women’s Art Consortium session here: From Surviving to Thriving: Forty years of feminist arts.
Organized and moderated by Kerry McCarthy, vice president, The New York Community Trust. Presented by Debra Zimmerman, executive director, Women Make Movies; Erin Zona, artistic director, Women’s Studio Workshop; and Idelisse Malava, consultant.
Read the full report here: Harnessing the Power of Feminist Arts Organizations