History and Mission
Women in the Arts Foundation works to overcome discrimination against women artists.
Founded in 1971 by artists, writers and other art world professionals meeting in lower Manhattan during a time of great unrest and creative ferment, Women in the Arts quickly grew into a national organization. It incorporated in 1973 as Women in the Arts Foundation, Inc. (WIA). Throughout its history, WIA has proved to be adaptable and creative in its ongoing work to change outdated concepts and attitudes about women as professional artists.
WIA's fight to end discrimination against women artists was vigorous, picketing major museums like the Whitney Museum of American Art (1971 and 1977) and the Museum of Modern Art (1972 and 1984). Members gathered statistics on the lack of representation of women in galleries and museums and used these statistics during radio and television interviews, speeches, letter writing campaigns and street actions in front of auction houses and galleries. Twice (in 1977 and 1983) WIA sent representatives to Washington, DC to testify, addressing unfair jury practices and the under-representation of women artists both in direct funding by the National Endowment for the Arts and in NEA-funded institutions.
At the same time, WIA also negotiated with collectors and the directors of museums and galleries to obtain large-scale art shows of women's work. Occasionally it was successful and WIA sponsored several major exhibitions, beginning with Women Choose Women at the New York Cultural Center run by the then-fledgling NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. The Exxon Corporation, Mobil Foundation, the Eastman Fund, and Consolidated Edison awarded grants to WIA for its exhibitions and catalogues.
For many years WIA ran its own gallery on Broome Street in Manhattan, exhibiting the work of innumerable women artists, some of whom have gone on to illustrious careers. Countless women have gained valuable hands-on experience volunteering with WIA. To this day, group exhibitions are presented in all kinds of venues.
As times changed, the focus shifted to career education, networking, support and camaraderie. WIA was among the first to sponsor a Business of Art for Artists series of workshops, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. WIA's ongoing career education workshops, free and open to the public, continue to challenge its membership to improve their work, knowledge and skills in the art marketplace. The group's current membership extends throughout the United States while remaining solidly grounded in the five boroughs of New York City.
The WIA Newsletter, published continuously since the organization's beginnings (previously known as the WIA Bulletin/Newsletter), is collected by the archives of London's Victoria & Albert Museum Library, among others. A Portfolio, an innovative edition of 50 portfolios of photocopy art created by WIA members in 1986, was accepted by the Archives of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1996. Early papers of the organization are included in the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art in Washington, DC.
Women in the Arts Foundation, Inc. is open to all women, has no jury admissions requirements and does not discriminate on the basis of age, creative medium, ethnicity, religion or country of origin.