March Madness: A Digital Dive into Women’s History Month

NMWA’s year-round mission is to address gender imbalance in the art world, but every March—Women’s History Month—the museum has an opportunity to catch the attention of a wider audience to celebrate women artists. This March, NMWA launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of women artists by asking, “Can you name five women artists?”

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NMWA’s social media campaign for Women’s History Month

A huge community joined in!

  • Art museums, libraries, galleries, and art lovers from 20 countries answered by sharing and tagging their favorite women artists.
  • News outlets like the Huffington Post and the Atlantic helped spread the challenge.
  • More than 370 cultural organizations and 11,000 individuals joined the campaign to promote women artists.
  • More than 3,300 Instagram posts and more than 23,000 tweets used the hashtag #5womenartists.

During the campaign, NMWA’s number of digital followers increased by 140% on Instagram, 19% on Facebook, and 12% on Twitter. At least 60 individuals and cultural institutions wrote personal blog posts about the challenge, in English as well as Spanish, Italian, Turkish, and Estonian. NMWA’s blog post launching the campaign was read almost 2,000 times.

“We are delighted with the overwhelming response to the #5womenartists campaign,” said NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “By calling attention to the inequity women artists face today, the Women’s Museum is gratified to have inspired even more conversation and awareness than we anticipated. We thank all of the cultural organizations and social media users who joined us in this important initiative.”

Overall, March was filled with exciting digital endeavors to bolster the visibility of women artists. Thirty-five participants attended NMWA’s fourth annual Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, part of the Art + Feminism initiative to improve Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. Using the museum’s resources, contributors improved 20 existing articles and created new entries for Hungarian-born Mexican photographer Kati Horna, silversmith and jewelry designer Alma Eikerman, and drafted information for the Association of San Francisco Women Artists.

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An #EmptyNMWA instameet participant snaps a photo of a painting by Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes

For International Women’s Day on March 8, NMWA captured tweets and posts from people around the world celebrating #5womenartists. The museum also hosted a before-hours instameet for a group of 30 local photographers to tour, snap photos, and explore the museum’s galleries.

For each week of 2016, a different museum across the globe takes over the @52museums Instagram account. March 21–27, @womeninthearts brought stories about the museum and women artists to a broader digital public. To finish the month, the museum also participated in #MuseumWeek, the first worldwide cultural event on Twitter, and shared the building’s history, collection, exhibitions, and advocacy programs.

During the last week, nearly 5,000 people viewed the museum’s BuzzFeed quiz, which asked, “Which of these #5womenartists are you?” So, can you name #5womenartists? In a Twitter poll, 83% of NMWA followers said yes! Next year, we’re aiming for 100%.

Want to continue to advocate for women in the arts? Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Visit the museum, become a member, and get involved in upcoming programs.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Camera-Sly: #EmptyNMWA Instameet

On March 8, 2016, the museum hosted an #EmptyNMWA instameet (a gathering of Instagram photographers) in honor of International Women’s Day. NWMA welcomed 30 local instagrammers to visit the museum to tour and photograph the museum’s collection before public hours. Before the tour, attendees enjoyed refreshments on the museum’s Mezzanine—featuring staff-made cookies inspired by artwork from the collection.

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Left to right: Collection-inspired cookies; #EmptyNMWA participants in the Great Hall

In the museum’s Great Hall, NMWA Associate Curator Virginia Treanor drew attendees into the history of women artists through a discussion about 17th-century painter Louise Moillon. Because Moillon had limited resources and was barred from life-drawing classes, her renderings of fruit were executed with more skill than her depictions of figures.

Treanor revealed stories about women artists who had successful careers—despite their barriers—but had been scrubbed from art history texts, like Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot. Many ’grammers were surprised to learn that while women make up 51% of visual artists today, only 5% of work on museum walls in the U.S. is by women. Others struggled to name five women artists, but felt confident by the time they shared the #5womenartists challenge on social media after the event.

Drawing inspiration from the museum’s building and collection, @aquinsta shared the museum’s iconic Frida Kahlo self-portrait, @flipflopcaravan marveled at NMWA’s architectural history as a Masonic temple (where women were not allowed entry), and @thisisjamesj chronicled the morning on his blog.

Capturing new views of collection favorites, @dccitygirl incorporated a phone as an additional lens in front of Mickalene Thomas’s A-E-I-O-U and Sometimes Y (2009), while @jww_color snapped a bird’s-eye view of Honor Freeman’s porcelain Tupperware.

Browse more than 150 spectacular images posted from the #EmptyNMWA instameet on Instagram and Storify. Follow @WomenInTheArts to hear about future opportunities. Until the next instameet, visit the museum and keep ‘gramming!

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.