There’s been a rise in female-owned businesses over the past couple of years–not only in Austin, but everywhere, it seems. Locally, annual events such as EAST (East Austin Studio Tour) and West Austin Studio Tour create space for female artists. But art gallery Women & Their Work has been around since 1978 with an explicit mission to cultivate recognition of female-created art in Austin.
Pioneers for Female Artists in Contemporary Art
When The Austinot first interviewed Executive Director Chris Cowden in 2015, we learned Women & Their Work was formed by three artists in 1978 as part of the Alternative Space Movement, a national groundswell reacting to the lack of female leadership roles in art.
The founders put the concept into motion by featuring performing and visual female artists in a statewide festival. When this was successful, they decided to incorporate as Women & Their Work to stress the importance of art as a profession in which women should be paid.
“The name was chosen to reflect a philosophy about art and those who create it: art is work; it is a profession for which people should be paid like a banker or a plumber,” Cowden said. “Art is not a hobby; it is work and this work is created by women, too.”
For many years, the organization operated out of an office and held events throughout the city, but it was difficult to memorably attach the Women & Their Work name to each event. In 1995, the organization reached their current home on Lavaca, near The University of Texas at Austin.
Though women now have access to art education and hold positions as curators, there are still discrepancies in how many women are represented in galleries and museums, and how much they are paid for their work. “We have been flabbergasted by how the statistics still mirror the past,” Cowden shared. But she has seen a lot of positive change. Women & Their Work “emphasizes the quality of the work, and keeps feet to the fire so it’s not easy to slide backwards.”
Diversified Work on Rotation at Women & Their Work
Women & Their Work has helped develop the work and careers of 1,800 artists since opening in 1978. The organization focuses on contemporary art, including mixed media, music, dance, theater, and visual exhibitions, and focuses on giving artists leeway to explore issues that would often be restricted by for-profit galleries. Empowered with this freedom, artists can better explore issues important to them.
Every six weeks, a new artist settles into the gallery, following a state-wide call for entries. By focusing on a solo artist, a significant body of work can be exhibited in the relatively large gallery.
Women & Their Work is proud to act as a catalyst for new ideas in the contemporary art scene, helping create educational opportunities that impact a broad audience, while presenting programs that represent the diversity of the region. It also offers technical support and monetary sponsorship for its exhibiting artists.
The gallery has a number of engaging exhibits planned for 2018 into 2019. Rachel Stuckey’s new work, Good Days and Bad Days on the Internet, opened Nov. 18, 2017, and will remain on view through Jan. 11, 2018. Stuckey describes her show saying,
“The pieces include performative video, projection mapping, video signal manipulation, and custom software. Thematically, the work points to the array of ways we engage with technology, ranging from commercial seduction to addiction and entrapment, to the intoxication of the unknown. The works shift tonally from parody to dark abstraction, paralleling that moment when you’ve gone too deep on YouTube and are way far off from the cat videos you started with.”
➡️ Keep reading: “She Factory Pumps Music and Money Into Female-led Creative Scene”
Plan Ongoing Visits and Learn More
Women & Their Work is located at 1710 Lavaca St. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. Metered parking is available close to the gallery. There’s also a small gift shop where you can purchase artist-made gifts. Add yourself to their mailing list via the gallery website, or connect on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Visit the gallery and website to learn more about future shows and projects.
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