Five of the best organisations connecting women visual artists in 2021

In researching my upcoming book, I’ve had the privilege to connect with some extraordinary arts organisations. Many of these are explicitly trying to address the underrepresentation of women within the visual arts, particularly those of us with caring roles. Many are growing thriving communities as they increasingly connect their members online.

Here are five of the organisations doing exciting work today.

1. All SHE Makes

Cover of the most recent All SHE Makes magazine. Image: All SHE Makes

All SHE Makes is an international organisation committed to increasing visibility for women artists. All SHE Makes hosts a free-to-use curated online directory for discovering women artists from around the globe and provides education on gender disparity in the art world. The organisation also offers scholarship opportunities, art career support, and publishing opportunities in the All SHE Makes art magazine.

All SHE Makes members regularly connect through critique and networking events led by other women artists from the community. Membership is included in the cost of submission of artwork for the All SHE Makes directory and magazine, which is 35 USD. Financial assistance is available.

I recently interviewed All SHE Makes founder and artist Svitlana Martynjuk about her practice and plans. She explained,

“All SHE Makes is growing in a community and events direction in order to connect artists with more opportunities globally. It’s about allowing artists to find their community when they need it. Artists reported that they’d used the All SHE Makes directory to find other artists in their local area and have been contacted by directory visitors about their work, so the idea grew from there.” 

“The directory is free to use. It’s a place where anyone can go to find other women artists near to them.”

(I’ll share the full interview with Svitlana Martynjuk shortly).

2. Spilt Milk Gallery

Painting by Spilt Milk artist Ashley Cecil, “Take-Shelter”. Image: Spilt Milk

Spilt Milk Gallery is a social enterprise based in Scotland, UK, which both promotes the work of artists who are mothers, and empowers mothers in their local community through artist-led creative activities.

Spilt Milk’s international membership network is dedicated to supporting artists who are mothers to continue to develop their practice. Tailored opportunities aim to reduce the barriers faced by mothers in the arts, and include regular member exhibitions, publications and online residencies. Yearly membership is 20 GBP, and is open to artists who are mothers living anywhere in the world. 

“The art world was built by and for privileged white men so the way it was set up doesn’t work for everyone,” Spilt Milk Gallery’s founder Lauren McLaughlin explained in a recent conversation with Pinescope.

“So, we may need a new way of doing everything, down to selection processes and how things get funded. I’ve always tried to make it as democratic as possible.”

3. Repaint History

Repaint History – a campaign started with clothing. Image: Repaint History

Sometimes connecting with our historical context is as important as connecting with our present-day community. Which is why Repaint History is very much needed in this list. It’s a movement, community and fashion line (!) dedicated to raising the profile of women artists. Their curated list of ‘pioneer female artists of the past’ is essential reading. It places contemporary womxn artists within a history of female creativity, passion and technical mastery – which until recently was largely forgotten.   

As co-founder Pegah Kargar explained to me in her interview for The 12 Days of Creativity,

“Anyone like me who wasn’t entrenched in the art world, well, we have such an unconscious bias. If I didn’t know about an artist, I thought that they couldn’t be any good. And I just didn’t know many female artists! Six years ago, I started to research and it led me to found Repaint History.”

The organisation now offers regular Calls for Art with funding for women artists, as well as providing mentorship schemes and continuing to place their activist clothing line. Stockists include institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art, who committed to collecting only works by women during 2020 and 2021 to help address their collection’s gender imbalance.  

“We’ve morphed from starting a conversation into making change”, says Pegah.

To apply for Repaint History’s current Call for Art costs 25 CAD (Approx $19 US), with at least $625 in funding given to selected artists.

4. Art Mamas Alliance

Art Mamas Alliance co-founders Helen Toomer and Katy Donoghue. Image: Art Mamas Alliance.

Art Mamas Alliance was founded in 2019 to be a supportive, member-driven community for parents in the arts. They aim to create a safe online space for honest conversations, founded on a need to connect and the conviction that parenthood should not be hidden. 

Art Mamas members connect twice monthly via Zoom for a Member Meetup and a Focused Discussion. The Meetups are an informal check-in where members connect, share, and get to know one another. Focused Discussions range in topics ranging from fertility to feeding, co-parenting to homeschooling, infancy to college. Art Mamas also organises online events to share work of interest to members, like the recent Designing Motherhood exhibition and book.

“We didn’t realize how isolating being a parent could be,” explain Art Mama’s co-founders Katy Donoghue and Helen Toomer. 

“When we had our children, we looked around and wondered, where are our people? We didn’t hear discussions of motherhood among our creative and professional peers. So we decided to change that.”

Art Mamas Membership is open to all who believe in the visibility of parenthood. The community welcomes everyone interested and open to supporting their aims. You do not need to identify as a parent, or even someone interested in becoming a parent. 

Art Mamas membership can be expensive, at 95 USD per year, with currently no monthly payment option. However, the fee includes access to all events and a 10% donation to Black Mamas.

Art Mama’s also offers a BIPOC Member Fund, wherein memberships are allocated on an ongoing basis via nominations and need. They invite Art Mamas Members to nominate BIPOC parents in order to reflect diversity and ensure access.

5. Artist/Mother Network

Installation view of the Artist/Mother Network’s first juried exhibition “Painting At Night”. Image: Artist/Mother Network

The Artist/Mother Network grew from the Artist/Mother Podcast by founder Kaylan Buteyn. The network shares stories and perspectives from artists who are also mothers, offering a platform for conversations about how artists structure their careers while balancing the roles of caregiving and domestic life. Artist/Mother offers community and support for artist/mothers through crit groups, exhibitions, an online network, and in-person retreats.

“While our community is rooted in the artist/mother identity, we want to support any female-identifying artist in the world…artists of all backgrounds, mediums and education levels,” says Kaylan about the inclusivity of the network. 

“We don’t believe you have to be a mother, to be a mother-er and we believe every artist in every phase of their career needs community and has something of value. We welcome trans and cis women as well as genderqueer, and non-binary people.” 

Artist/Mother members can search and connect with other members in their area, set up a member profile to share more about yourself and your work, and ask questions and share experience in the online networks. Also included is access to a monthly live artist Q&A event  and one free workshop a month with community leaders.

Membership of the Artist/Mother Network is 17.99 USD per month, with a 12.99 USD ‘scholarship’ plan available to womxn of colour, single parents, LGBTQIA+ and low income households.

About the author

Bay Backner is an artist, activist and creativity educator. She is the founder of Thursday Society, a global arts collective, and the author of the upcoming book The 12 Days of Creativity. Bay’s own creative path took her from a working-class background to an Oxford degree in physics, then from open source technology to painting for international art galleries.

Bay is a fully-qualified teacher and is certified by The Smithsonian Institution in teaching critical thinking through art. She is currently the resident artist and creativity teacher at a leading independent school, and teaches creative confidence from her painting studio in Valencia, Spain. Bay initially qualified as a teacher through the social change program, Teach First, and is committed to opening creative education to all.

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