🤔 What’s Collectible in West Virginia’s Feminist History?
When the curators at the West Virginia University West Virginia & Regional History Center (WVRHC) set out to showcase their Feminist Activist Collection with an exhibition (up now info below), a question sparked my curiosity: could feminist art in West Virginia be part of this narrative? The answer was a resounding “yes.”
💁♀️ Filling the Gaps: Beyond Art Objects
While the center’s mission doesn’t explicitly focus on fine art, they diligently gather ephemera related to artists and art organizations. These personal items, from notes to exhibition postcards, are windows into a vibrant culture. They unveil not just the art but the atmosphere in which it thrived.
⛏️ Digging into Feminism in West Virginia
Yet, as the collection grew, a gap emerged regarding visual art. The 1970s Second Wave of feminism had left a void in terms of feminist art documentation in West Virginia. To bridge this gap, a quest for traces of feminist art led me to art organizations, museums, and artists across the state.
🎨 From the ’80s Onward: The Feminist Art Awakening
Though women have been at the forefront of the arts in WV for some time (renowned artists Blanche Lazzell and Grace Martin Taylor hail from the state), notably, it wasn’t until the ’80s and ’90s that feminist content began weaving into West Virginian art as evidenced on the WVU campus, showcasing seminal feminist artists like Nancy Spero and Faith Ringgold, and budding feminist artists emerged such as Caitlin Masley and Lizzi Bougatsos. Aviva Rahmani, a renowned feminist and environmental artist, staged a performance piece in WV in 2015, shedding light on this artistic shift.
📜 A Personal Connection to the Cause
As a feminist artist and curator, the idea of contributing my own projects to the collection took root. With the donation of ephemera, women and underrepresented artists found a place in history, sparking inspiration for future generations.
📚 “Women Making History” – A Collaborative Showcase
Now, “Women Making History,” an exhibit at the WVRHC until May, serves as a testament to their hefty collaborative effort. Students, faculty, and staff from WVU Libraries and the History department curated sections that draw from the Feminist Activist Collection.
♀️ Preserving Feminist Voices in West Virginia
The West Virginia & Regional History Center, with the WV Feminist Activist Collection, captures the voices of West Virginians working to secure gender equality.
📣 Do You Hold a Piece of Feminist History?
Have notes, calendars, or exhibit brochures related to West Virginia’s feminist past? Don’t throw them out! Get in touch with WVRHC and become a part of preserving this remarkable narrative.
📩 For the full text of the WV feminist activist art panels, reach out!
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