According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the artists in most museums’ collections are 87% male and 85% white. Only 27% of major exhibitions are devoted to women artists world-wide. The New Britain Museum of American Art has taken the initiative to buck that trend.
All this year the museum is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage by creating seven exhibitions devoted exclusively to the work of women artists.
“The picture of American art of the 21st century is one of a rich and varied diversity, reflecting America’s evolving national identity,” said Min Jung Kim, the director and CEO of the New Britain Museum of American Art. “To be truly ‘American’ now means to embrace diversity. Yet 100 years after women were granted equal voting rights by the 19th Amendment, women artists are still significantly under-represented – not only in the NBMAA’s collection, but in most of the nation’s art museums.”
Kim said an American art museum should reflect the voices and experiences of all Americans, not just white men.
“Unless there is a conscious awareness and a concerted effort, and thought and process given with intentionality this will continue to create a situation where we're only hearing half the story of Americans and the American narrative.”
One of the women artists featured this year is New York-based Shantell Martin. Her work with ink markers has led to collaborations with major corporations like Tiffany and Co. and Puma. She said the under representation of women artists in museums sends the wrong message to museum-goers and up-and-coming artists from diverse backgrounds.
“If you don't see people like yourself in these situations then you can't imagine yourself in them,” said Martin. “I feel like it is important to see people like myself who are from these different communities that face all of these barriers and hurdles that do not see ourselves reflected back in these spaces. Therefore, we feel like we don't belong.