Appreciating Architecture: #EmptyNMWA Instameet

More than 25 D.C.-area Instagrammers visited NMWA on June 17, 2016, for a before-hours Instameet. With access to the empty galleries, local photographers explored the museum’s building and collection, as well as the special exhibitions She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World and Alison Saar In Print. Attendees including @2020_productions snapped photographs of the event’s snacks, including cookies inspired by the building’s façade. Participants explored the building’s history through a staff-led tour while sharing their tagged photos on social media with #EmptyNMWA.

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Left to right: @2020_productions photographs cookies; NMWA’s director of operations leads a tour

Gordon Umbarger, NMWA’s director of operations, explained the fascinating history behind the museum’s architecture. During an outdoor segment of the tour, attendees learned that Theodore Roosevelt laid the building’s cornerstone using the same gavel and trowel that George Washington used for the Capitol Building in 1793. @dc_explorer captured and shared this commonly overlooked feature.

Did you know that the building was first constructed as a Masonic temple in 1907 and women were not allowed entry? It seems fitting that today the building houses works by women artists! Visitors can detect traces of Masonic architecture around the museum. @korofina zoomed in on the building’s exterior frieze featuring the square and compass symbols. @buildings_of_dc captured the full building, which was designed in a Renaissance Revival style by prominent D.C. architect Waddy Wood, from a vantage point across street.

For additional income the Masons rented parts of the building to other local businesses, including George Washington University, a dentist, an insurance agent, and a uniform supply shop. The space hosted the Pix Theatre during the 1940s and early ’50s—until the Masons terminated the theater’s lease due to the sometimes racy nature of its movies. @kjhower1 captured decorative details that used to frame the movie screen.

In 1983, NMWA’s founders, Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, purchased the space and opened the museum to the public in 1987. Ten years later, the museum opened an addition within an adjoining building. Formerly a “D.C. pleasure palace,” the building was renamed the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing, and it now houses NMWA’s Museum Shop and sculpture gallery.

Participants found more Insta-worthy subjects inside the museum. @cczablotney snagged an incredible photo of the museum’s Great Hall and one of its iconic chandeliers while @kaitlyntward focused on the marble balustrades. @beingdave even observed the benches in the Great Hall designed by Florence Knoll. Visitors also ventured into the collection galleries and special exhibitions. @setarrra photographed another participant mirroring a photograph from Tanya Habjouqa’s “Women of Gaza” series, on view in She Who Tells a Story.

It was a fun and creative Instameet! To see all the event’s photos, check out the Storify compilation or browse #EmptyNMWA on Instagram. Follow @WomenInTheArts on Instagram and Twitter to learn about future Instameet opportunities.

—Casey Betts is the summer 2016 digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

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.

#Instameets @WomenInTheArts

In honor of International Women’s Day, NMWA will host an #EmptyNMWA instameet on Tuesday, March 8. An “instameet” is an opportunity for photographers to gather, meet, and snap pictures for Instagram. The museum will give 30 photographers a chance to explore and photograph the museum’s collection before public hours.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts hosted its first instameet on December 9, 2015, in collaboration with @IGDC, a community of photographers based in the D.C. metropolitan area. NWMA welcomed local instagrammers to visit the museum before it opened to the public to capture the special exhibition Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today.

NMWA Associate Curator Virginia Treanor guided 18 photographers through the exhibition and highlighted show-stopping works by midcentury and contemporary women designers while illuminating the artists’ processes—photographers enjoyed hearing about Polly Apfelbaum, who used a punch card as a stencil for her Handweaver’s Pattern Book installation (2014).

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Left to right: @ksdirectional’s detail image, @saifahmed99’s photo

The event’s photographs captured the diversity of the dynamic women designers whose work was on view. Photographer @ksdirectional captured an amazing detail photo of Front Design’s Axor WaterDream/Axor Shower System (2014) and @saifahmed99’s installation shot of Vuokko Eskolin-Nurmesniemi’s Circle Dresses (ca. 1964) was chosen as the photo of the day by the #ACreativeDC feed. The instameet gave photographers the chance to see—and share—the exhibition from a new perspective.

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@tappety’s post about Mickalene Thomas

After spending an hour exploring the exhibition with behind-the-scenes access, museum staff invited attendees to explore the museum’s collection. Many of the participants had never visited the museum before, but were inspired by NMWA’s diverse collection and the architecture of the Great Hall. One participant, @tappety, discovered Mickalene Thomas’s rhinestone-encrusted A-E-I-O-U (and Sometimes Y) during her tour of the third-floor galleries.

Browse the 100 stunning photos captured from the #PathmakersInstameet on Instagram. Apply here by noon on March 4 to have a chance to explore the museum’s empty collection galleries on International Women’s Day and enjoy a special collection highlights tour.

Stacy Meteer is the communications and marketing associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.