Thank goodness for the late Madeleine Rast’s tremendous generosity. Had she not left a sizeable estate gift to her beloved National Museum of Women in the Arts, [NMWA] in Washington, DC, I wouldn’t have come across her transformational philanthropy on my media monitor, and certainly would not have learned about this place.
(Forgive me, Feminists, I’m Canadian.)
On the 4th of July, I walked and walked DC – passing by the comfort shoe stores and organic restaurants around Dupont Circle; and by the fancy shops on Connecticut Avenue; shuffling quickly next to the eerily quiet White House; and eventually entered this iconic building – formerly a Masonic temple – on 1250 New York Avenue NW.
Rather than attempt to demonstrate, through words, the meaning and beauty of the artworks housed inside these walls, I’m sharing photos of a few of my favourite pieces that arrested my steps and truly moved my soul toward a deeper appreciation of women’s artworks.
Since this space isn’t meant to be a travelogue, I point your attention to the NMWA as it embodies all the ways women have contributed to its 30 years in existence. You see, women founded this institution based on one simple, obvious, yet rarely asked question, “Where are all the women artists?”
Women volunteer their time here. They offer their talent here. Women give here.
I believe it’s one of the few places on this planet where women feature more prominently on the donor walls (and screens and steps) than their male counterparts. A brief scan of the NMWA’s latest annual report shows more women donors than I have ever seen giving to a single organization. Most generous donors start at the US$1M level.
It’s a place that wouldn’t be possible without women who support women artists.
This Prospect Researcher is heartened by such a place, especially since I spend much of my time and energy profiling fancy financiers (men, of course) who have amassed important art collections, rivaling the ones in spaces where you and I can actually enter.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is not just an arts institution – a building where artifacts are stored and paintings displayed. It is an advocacy organization, working to champion women through the arts.
“Across the centuries, women artists have often been marginalized,” according to the NMWA. “While gender bias is less overt today, contemporary women artists still face obstacles and disparities, including being under-represented in museums worldwide.”
I hope this non-profit museum attracts more global attention by women who wish to present their work here and by media who wish to spotlight noteworthy yet lesser known artists. Avid museum goers won’t mind the US$10 fee to enter this building, even among the gigantic Smithsonian buildings a few blocks away, that are free to stroll in and out at leisure. ~~~
This post is dedicated to Jane Ebreo, my friend and colleague at St. Paul’s Foundation. She happens to be a scrupulous learner of new things and a visual artist of multiple forms. Jane has taught me how to appreciate art as storytelling, less by technique and design. Maybe we will see Jane’s work in the NMWA someday? I sure hope we do. ~~~
Stewarding donors and volunteers on steps and screens:
Some random pieces: