#5WomenArtists: From a #Hashtag to a Movement

Last month, NMWA’s #5WomenArtists social media campaign launched for a fourth year of raising awareness about women artists. Pushing beyond the campaign’s signature question—“Can you name five woman artists?”—the 2019 campaign also challenged cultural organizations and individuals to take action to help right the art world’s gender imbalance. NMWA’s call to action listed ideas to inspire pledges: organizations might survey the ratio of women artists in their collections, acquire a new work by a woman artist, or establish a scholarship for women artists.

#5WomenArtists posts from Instagram

#5WomenArtists posts from Instagram

Inspiring Numbers

Our call this year was answered by over 750 cultural institutions and 8,000 individuals—responses came from across the U.S. as well as 37 other countries on six continents. We welcomed new participating organizations from Armenia, Colombia, Honduras, Liberia, Morocco, New Zealand, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates, among others. The campaign garnered 5,500 Instagram posts, 17,000 tweets, and countless inspiring pledges:

  • The Detroit Institute of Arts pledged to seek more opportunities to collaborate with local women artists on enriching programs and events.
  • The Seattle Art Museum pledged to feature an installation by a woman artist in its Olympic Sculpture Park.
  • The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba) pledged to increase the representation of Latin American women in its collection until works by female artists account for at least 50% of acquisitions.
  • The National Portrait Gallery pledged to feature the stories of American women in its exhibitions, programs, and social media as part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Individual participants pledged to:

  • “Buy work from living female artists and continue to legitimize the female perspective in the art world.”
  • “Integrate women artists into my lessons and curriculum.”
  • “Expose my son to art created by women.”
  • “Create a space for young women in the arts to feel comfortable sharing their work.”
  • “Create more opportunities for women artists to show, sell, and talk about their work.”

Screenshots of various #5WomenArtists pledges and answers

The campaign also expanded the practice of social media “takeovers” this year. In addition to NMWA taking over Tate’s Instagram account on International Women’s Day to share selections from our collection, this year the @womeninthearts Instagram account was taken over by 22 other museums that highlighted #5WomenArtists from their collections or programs. Check out the @womeninthearts story highlights to watch!

Tate x NMWA Collaboration

Additionally, this year NMWA teamed up with Tate to expand the reach of #5WomenArtists. Tate has an ongoing commitment to increasing the representation of women across the arts sector and within its four galleries across the U.K. Tate’s own public pledge is a major one: to stage five major solo exhibitions featuring women artists in 2020 and 2021. The planned exhibitions will highlight artists Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Paula Rego, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Maria Bartuszová, and Haegue Yang.

Keep Connected

Explore #5WomenArtists highlights on our website and social media accounts (@womeninthearts). Continue to advocate on behalf of women artists and celebrate their accomplishments all year. Every month is Women’s History Month at the museum!

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

#5WomenArtists Up Close: Tate

NMWA’s annual #5WomenArtists campaign calls attention to the fact that women artists remain underrepresented—and their work undervalued—in the art world. Since 2016, more than 11,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations have participated. This year, we asked cultural institutions to commit to actions that will advance gender equity in the arts. Hear from Nell Burnham, digital marketing production officer at Tate, about her museum’s commitments—and get inspired to make your own.

Tate highlights the work of British artist Gwen John, including her Self-Portrait (1902), in this year’s #5WomenArtists campaign; Photo © Tate

Is this Tate’s first year participating in #5WomenArtists?

Tate has participated in #5WomenArtists for the last three years. The campaign has been well received by our audience—in 2018, engagement on our social channels increased by more than a third during this campaign. Working on content and looking at our collection through the lens of #5WomenArtists helped us reframe our social media strategy, putting representation and diversity at the heart of what we present on our channels—not just for Women’s History month but throughout the year.

Why is the #5WomenArtists campaign important to Tate?

The #5WomenArtists campaign sheds light on the inequalities that exist in the arts sector. It has also united galleries and museums from around the world in raising awareness and working for change. Tate is committed to championing the work of women artists across its collection and exhibition programme, and the #5WomenArtists campaign gives us a moment to reflect on the work we are doing to represent women artists and share their work with our online audiences.

Tell us about your pledged action(s).

Tate pledged to make 95% of our social media posts about women artists for the month of March. To mark the campaign, we also announced five major solo shows by women artists opening across the Tate galleries in 2020 and 2021.

Which women artists will you be highlighting?

For the five major solo shows, Tate Britain will celebrate two of the most important figurative painters of their generations; in 2020 the first major survey of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s work will open, followed by a retrospective of Paula Rego’s paintings, drawings, and prints in 2021. Tate Modern will highlight the work of two Eastern European sculptors in its 2020 programme, beginning in June with an immersive exhibition of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s huge textile sculptures. This will be followed in November by a retrospective of Maria Bartuszová, an artist renowned for her experimental abstract works in plaster. In summer 2020, Tate St Ives will stage a major exhibition of the multisensory work of South Korean artist Haegue Yang.

On our social channels, we will share the work of more than 50 women artists across the month, including Lubaina Himid, the Guerrilla Girls, Louise Bourgeois, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Gwen John, Sonia Boyce, Alexis Hunter, Beatrix Potter, and Gillian Wearing.

How will your digital channels continue to champion the work of women artists beyond this campaign?

We will continue to champion the work by women in our collection, collaborate with new and emerging women artists, and engage in conversations around diversity and equality.

—Nell Burnham is the digital marketing production officer at Tate; Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

#5WomenArtists Up Close: New-York Historical Society

NMWA’s annual #5WomenArtists campaign calls attention to the fact that women artists remain underrepresented—and their work undervalued—in the art world. Since 2016, more than 11,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations have participated. This year, we asked cultural institutions to commit to actions that will advance gender equity in the arts. Hear from Dr. Valerie Paley, senior vice president, chief historian, and director of the Center for Women’s History (CWH) at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library (NYHS), about her institution’s commitments—and get inspired to make your own.

Is this the New-York Historical Society’s first year participating in #5WomenArtists?

In previous years we have shared social media posts for #5WomenArtists during Women’s History Month, but this is the first year we are committed to participating throughout the year via our pledged actions. We’re excited to introduce our audiences to some incredible women artists they might never have heard of.

Why is the #5WomenArtists campaign important to the New-York Historical Society?

An old washboard with a small circular clock affixed to the top, followed by the phrase "Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines" printed in block letters below it, followed by mammy figure carved out of wood and holding a machine gun and mop.

Betye Saar, Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines, 2017; Mixed media and wood figure on vintage washboard, clock; Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA; Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

Every month is Women’s History Month at the CWH, as our scholars are continuously working to amplify the stories of women who have been forgotten or undervalued in history. This year in particular, many of the exhibitions and programs at both the CWH and the museum focus on women artists—a group largely underrepresented, particularly women artists of color.

#5WomenArtists allows figures like Augusta Savage, for example, to reach a wider audience. She was an influential artist, educator, and community organizer during the Harlem Renaissance. But little of her work survived, and she has gone largely unacknowledged.

Tell us about your pledged action(s).

NYHS will mount four exhibitions throughout 2019 that highlight the work of women artists. NYHS artist-in-residence Bettina von Zwehl is featured in Meditations in an Emergency, on view through April 28; Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean is on view through May 27; Augusta Savage: Renaissance Women opens May 3; and LIFE’s Women opens June 28.

We will also share stories of women artists on our blog, Women at the Center, and in our public programs. This spring, we will showcase products exclusively by women artists, makers, and designers through our Designing Women Market at the NYHistory Store.

Which women artists will you be highlighting? Can you share any fun facts about them or their art? 

We are excited to showcase the artists in our four exhibitions, as well as six women photographers from LIFE magazine’s vital years who have gone largely unacknowledged. I am thrilled to exhibit the work of 92-year-old Saar, who has used her art to express the themes of racial justice and feminism. Although Saar is well known, no large museum in New York City has ever given her a full retrospective, so this show is a great step in the right direction.

Also, in our permanent Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, we highlight the work of Clara Driscoll, Louis C. Tiffany’s head designer, who managed a team of more than 30 women glass-cutters. Their work was critical to the success of the Tiffany lamp.

A room full of Tiffany lamps, all lit and on display at the NY Historical Society

Gallery of Tiffany Lamps; Photo by Jon Wallen; Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society

Some critics have called the renewed focus on women artists a “trend”—from your institutional perspective, how will you maintain the energy of this initiative beyond March?

The CWH’s commitment to honoring and expressing women’s influence on society, politics, and culture is ongoing. In a larger sense, I would hardly call this a “trend,” but rather, a correction. Year-round, our exhibitions in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery feature a rotation of shows that cover not only women’s history, but women’s artistic output.

—Dr. Valerie Paley is the senior vice president, chief historian, and director of the Center for Women’s History at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library; Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

#5WomenArtists Up Close: the Jewish Museum

NMWA’s annual #5WomenArtists campaign calls attention to the fact that women artists remain underrepresented—and their work undervalued—in the art world. Since 2016, more than 11,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations have participated. This year, we asked cultural institutions to commit to actions that will advance gender equity in the arts. Hear from JiaJia Fei, director of digital at the Jewish Museum, about her museum’s commitments—and get inspired to make your own.

Is this the Jewish Museum’s first year participating in #5WomenArtists?

The Jewish Museum has proudly partnered with NMWA on #5WomenArtists since the campaign’s launch in 2016. Like many online movements, #5WomenArtists may have started on social media, but has extended to in-person gatherings, inspiring programming at the Jewish Museum that highlights women artists and brings our online communities together.

JiaJia Fei stands in the center of a room of the Martha Rosler exhibition wearing black pants and a black tshirt that reads "Men Have Made a Lot of Bad Art" with her right hand up with peace fingers.

JiaJia Fei at the Jewish Museum’s Martha Rosler exhibition

Why is the #5WomenArtists campaign important to the Jewish Museum?

The Jewish Museum has a long history of supporting women artists, from offering the museum’s first solo exhibition to Helen Frankenthaler in the 1960s, to major surveys of work by Eva Hesse (2006), Louise Nevelson (2007), Maira Kalman (2011), Florine Stettheimer (2017) and most recently, a survey on Martha Rosler (2018)—but there is still more work to be done. Our digital platforms offer the opportunity to amplify the work of women artists in our collection even further, and allow us to highlight works not on view.

Tell us about your pledged action(s).

The Jewish Museum just organized its second Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, in partnership with Art+Feminism, to improve the representation of women artists in the museum’s collection on Wikipedia. It brought dozens of participants together to combat the gender imbalance on Wikipedia, and, by extension, the art world. We will also feature women artists on our social media channels and Medium stories, as well as merchandise made by women in our shop.

Which women artists will you be highlighting? Can you share any fun facts about them or their art?

This year we’re highlighting women artists on view in Scenes from the Collection, including Elaine Lustig Cohen, Chantal Joffe, Deborah Kass, and Louise Nevelson. Our iconic OY/YO (2016) sculpture by Deborah Kass, although three feet wide in the gallery, also comes in adorable reproductions as keychains, earrings, cufflinks, necklaces, t-shirts, and baby onesies in the shop.

Two female participants at the Jewish Museum’s March 3, 2019, Wikipedia-Edit-a-thon, wearing “OY/YO” t-shirts--the photos shows them from the back.

Two participants at the Jewish Museum’s March 3, 2019, Wikipedia-Edit-a-thon, wearing “OY/YO” t-shirts inspired by the Deborah Kass sculpture

Some critics have called the renewed focus on women artists a “trend”—from your institutional perspective, how will you maintain the energy of this initiative beyond March?

Until women—including women of color—are adequately represented in the art world as artists, curators, and directors, the focus on elevating the work of women should continue with urgency. The Jewish Museum will continue to celebrate the legacies of women like art dealer Edith Halpert, the subject of our exhibition in fall 2019. As the first significant female gallerist in the United States, she supported women and immigrants, and hers was the first gallery in New York City to promote the work of African American artists. Until all of these voices are represented, the conversation will continue to be incomplete.

—JiaJia Fei is the director of digital at the Jewish Museum; Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

#5WomenArtists Up Close: North Carolina Museum of Art

NMWA’s annual #5WomenArtists campaign calls attention to the fact that women artists remain underrepresented—and their work undervalued—in the art world. Since 2016, more than 11,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations have participated. This year, we asked cultural institutions to commit to actions that will advance gender equity in the arts. Hear from Dr. Valerie Hillings, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, about her museum’s commitments—and get inspired to make your own.

Is this the North Carolina Museum of Art’s first year participating in #5WomenArtists?

This is our second year of showcasing female artists in our collection as part of the #5WomenArtists campaign. Our collection includes works by Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mickalene Thomas, Louise Bourgeois, Harriet Hosmer, and more. On social media we spotlight the history, process, and impact of these important artists to encourage conversation.

A wide-angle shot of hundreds of women holding up Guerrilla Girls masks in front of their faces

As part of Take Up Space: Women’s Weekend at the NCMA, the Guerrilla Girls will offer a poster-making workshop on March 9 at the North Carolina Museum of Art; Photo: Guerrilla Girls, Wealth & Power, 2016

Why is the #5WomenArtists campaign important to the North Carolina Museum of Art?

Last January, we launched our #MatronsOfTheArts initiative that supports acquisitions, exhibitions, and programs by and about female artists. Like #5WomenArtists, it celebrates the invaluable role women have played and continue to play in the arts by telling a broader, more inclusive story.

Tell us about your pledged action(s).

This year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we will host three days of inclusive, imaginative, thought-provoking, and fun events at Take Up Space: Women’s Weekend at the NCMA. Programs include artist collective the Guerrilla Girls, artist-led tours, yoga, workshops, a pop-up chorus, and more, to activate, empower, and nurture. Matrons of the Arts sponsors this initiative to engage across the gender spectrum, including trans women and nonbinary individuals. Men and children are encouraged to attend.

Which women artists will you be highlighting? Can you share any fun facts about them or their art? 

A vertical oil painting in earthy colors of a woman with black hair who seems to be mid-move in a dance, her left hand pointing up to the sky, her right placed on her head with her head tilted to the right, her feet on her tip toes. She wears a patterned yellow blouse and a patterned long skirt in teal.

Hayv Kahraman, Kawliya 1, 2014; Oil on linen, 96 x 48 in.; On view at the North Carolina Museum of Art; Purchased with funds from the bequest of Fannie and Alan Leslie, by exchange; Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art

We’ve installed a new gallery that features portraits of women by women artists. It also highlights works of art we’ve acquired in the past 15 years that focus on female identity and tradition, power, and transformation. For example, the personal history of Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981) informs her paintings. Her family fled Bagdad in 1992 and found refuge in Sweden, before Kahraman moved to Italy to study design. She is now settled in the U.S. This displacement exposed her to artistic influences that can be seen in her images—Japanese scroll painting, Italian Renaissance portraits, and Persian miniatures. Her work Kawliya 1 (2014) is named after a traditional Iraqi dance Kahraman experienced as a young girl. She has celebrated this memory as a touchstone to her childhood and a reminder of her ongoing search for a place to call home.

Some critics have called the renewed focus on women artists a “trend”—how will you maintain the energy of this initiative beyond March?

We’re committed to leading conversations throughout the year to amplify under-represented voices in the arts. We know we have more work to do. We want our collection, programs, exhibitions, and staff to reflect the diversity of the people we serve, in the state of North Carolina and the world beyond.

—Dr. Valerie Hillings is the director of the North Carolina Museum of Art; Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

#5WomenArtists: From Awareness to Action

A woman stares at a gallery wall of blank white frames, above her head the question "Can you name five women artists?" is written in bold green type. At the bottom of the image the statement "Most people we asked could not." is written in white text, followed by the #5WomenArtists hashtag.

#5WomenArtists is back for a fourth year, this time with a new call for action

Each March since 2016, the National Museum of Women in the Arts has posed a simple question on social media for Women’s History Month: Can you name five women artists? Using the hashtag #5WomenArtists, the campaign spotlights the lives and work of women artists, historical and contemporary. It also calls attention to the fact that women artists remain dramatically underrepresented—and their work undervalued—in galleries, museums, and auction houses around the world.

To date, more than 11,000 individuals and 1,000 organizations from 47 countries and seven continents have participated in the campaign. This year, we move from awareness to action as we invite museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions to take tangible steps toward advancing gender equity in the arts. Whether you are an individual or part of an institution, there are many ways to play a part in supporting women artists throughout March—and beyond.

Share your pledge on Instagram Stories! Download more templates to use on social media

Check out our list of ideas about how to get started, including these highlights:

For individuals:

  • Learn about gender inequity in the arts through some shocking statistics
  • Download and share ready-made #5WomenArtists graphics on your social media feeds
  • When you see an exhibition/museum/gallery that features few or no women artists, tell the institution that you would like to see more women represented
  • Buy a work of art by a woman artist
  • Start a support group or skill share with other women artists

For institutions:

Get inspired by pledges taken by the Tate, the Jewish Museum, the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, and others. Other ideas for action include:

  • Determine the ratio of women artists in your collection by conducting a survey
  • Establish a program for women artists in your community (like a networking event, workshop, panel discussion, or scholarship)
  • Acquire a new work by a woman artist for your collection in the next year

To kick off the month, learn more about five women artists featured in NMWA’s programs, exhibitions, and collection:

A graphic depicting photos of five different women artists including: Ambreen Butt, Remedios Varo, Patricia Piccinini, Nikki S. Lee, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Learn more about women artists through NMWA’s artist profiles

Ambreen Butt (b. 1969, Lahore, Pakistan) reimagines traditional Indian and Persian miniature painting to feature contemporary female protagonists and political subject matter.

A refugee two times over, Remedios Varo (b. 1908, Anglès, Spain, d. 1963, Mexico City) settled in Mexico, where she painted fantastical Surrealist works that explored magic, alchemy, and analytical psychology.

Patricia Piccinini (b. 1965, Freetown, Sierra Leone) creates sculptures of hybrid creatures that question the implications of biotechnologies and humanity’s encroachment into “natural” processes.

Nikki S. Lee (b. 1970, Kye-Chang, South Korea) interrogates identity in her photographic works, exploring whether it is possible to move fluidly between cultures.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (b. 1940, St. Ignatius, Montana) works with paint, collage, and appropriated imagery to comment on the destruction of the environment, governmental oppression of native cultures, and the myths of Euro-American cultural hegemony.

Starting March 1, take the challenge and post about #5WomenArtists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tag us @WomenInTheArts. Follow along with the month’s highlights.

—Alicia Gregory is the assistant editor at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Can You Name #5WomenArtists?

Can you name five women artists? Did your response include any women artists of color? Women artists, especially women of color, remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses. This March, for Women’s History Month, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is relaunching our award-winning social media campaign asking, “Can you name five women artists?”

NMWA began the #5WomenArtists campaign in March 2016. It elicited shock, provided a challenge, and sparked conversation about gender parity in the arts. During March 2017, more than 520 national and international cultural institutions and nearly 11,000 individuals joined the campaign to promote women artists in all 50 states and on seven continents.

NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling says, “There is no better time than now to raise awareness that the art world also disadvantages women’s opportunities and advancement, with women artists of color experiencing a double disadvantage in an already challenging field.”

Join NMWA and other institutions, including the National Gallery of Art, Tate, and Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists.

Here’s how you can get started:

Learn more about women artists through NMWA’s artist profiles

To kick off the month, learn more about five women artists featured in the museum’s programs, exhibitions, and collection:

For more than eight decades, Maria Martinez (1887–1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico) continued and extended the centuries-old pottery traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Georgia Mills Jessup (1926–2016, Washington, D.C.) demonstrated diverse talent as a painter, sculptor, ceramicist, muralist, and collage artist.

Contemporary painter Li Shurui (b. 1981, Chongqing, China) uses an airbrush to add vibrant color to canvas to approximate the appearance of LED lighting popular in nightclubs and city settings.

Tanya Habjouqa (b. 1975, Amman, Jordan) is one of the founding members of the Rawiya photography collective and documents everyday life and social issues in the Middle East.

Graciela Iturbide’s (b. 1942, Mexico City, Mexico) photographs reveal the daily lives, customs, and rituals of Mexico’s underrepresented native cultures.

Want to help advocate for women artists? Starting March 1, take the challenge and post about #5WomenArtists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tag us @WomenInTheArts. Follow along with the month’s highlights on NMWA’s Women’s History Month webpage.

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

#5WomenArtists Goes Global

In honor of Women’s History Month, the museum launched the second year of its award-winning #5WomenArtists social media campaign, which asks, “Can you name five women artists?” The museum invited cultural organizations and individuals to share stories about women artists on social media throughout the month. The campaign inspired a discussion about gender imbalance in the art world in the U.S. and internationally—to great success! Check out a few highlights of the campaign:

One staff member dressed as Frida Kahlo brought the challenge to Washington, D.C. streets.

Overall, the month was filled with consciousness-raising digital initiatives. Forty-four participants edited 83 Wikipedia articles about women artists in the fifth annual Wikipedia edit-a-thon hosted at the museum. Part of the Art+Feminism initiative, edit-a-thon participants used the museum’s resources to improve entries about women artists. NMWA offered a daily scavenger hunt in the museum and hosted a before-hours InstaMeet for local photographers to explore and snap photos of the museum’s newly reinstalled collection galleries. NMWA staff shared their favorite works by women for International Women’s Day.

The museum also “took over” other institutions’ social media accounts to share the stories of women artists with a broader digital community, including sharing nature-themed works from @BalboaPark’s Instagram, collection highlights from the Brightest Young Things accounts, and the museum’s mission and history from the @52museums handle. NMWA’s collection works also anchored the all-women #ArtMadness “bracket,” the Albright-Knox Gallery’s NCAA March Madness-themed competition.

#5womenartists posts on Instagram

#5womenartists posts on Instagram

Many organizations included #5WomenArtists in their own Women’s History Month programming. The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art invited five women artists to speak about their experiences and the Royal British Columbia Museum hosted a museum happy hour event highlighting contemporary First Nations artists. Manor View Elementary School even created a bulletin board dedicated to the campaign. Individual participants reflected on the campaign, including one tweet stating, “#5WomenArtists has been one of the more influential hashtags for me. I knew at least five when I first saw it, but can name many more now!” Another Twitter user said, “The #5WomenArtists challenge is one of my favorite times of the #MuseSocial year! Thanks, @WomenInTheArts.” The challenge also inspired other hashtags, including #5WomenScientists and #5ArtistasMujeres.

Explore campaign highlights on the museum’s Women’s History Month web page. Continue to advocate on behalf of women artists and celebrate their accomplishments all year. Every month is Women’s History Month at the museum!

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

Challenge Accepted: Can You Name Five Women Artists?

Ask someone to name five artists and responses will likely include names such as Warhol, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci—all male artists. Ask someone to name five women artists, and the question poses more of a challenge.

Back by popular demand this March, the National Museum of Women in the Arts continues to ask, “Can you name five women artists?” This simple question calls attention to the inequity women artists face, inspires conversation, and brings awareness to a larger audience. Last year, the campaign struck a chord, and tens of thousands of posts were shared on social media. This year, more than 200 institutions from 50 states, 22 countries, and seven continents have already signed on to participate.

Join us throughout the month to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Challenge your family and friends.
  2. Share posts about your favorite women artists.
  3. Share a work by a woman artist at a museum or gallery near you.
  4. Explore NMWA’s artist profiles to discover artists you may not know.
  5. Get the facts about art world inequality and track campaign updates all month long.

To kick off the month, learn more about five influential women artists from the museum’s collection who defied expectations:

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580) and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar (ca. 1939); NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580 and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar, ca. 1939; NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) is regarded as the first professional woman artist. For 20 years beginning in the 1580s, Fontana was the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen. Not only was Fontana the breadwinner of her family, she also gave birth to 11 children.

For more than eight decades, Maria Martinez (1887–1980) revived and continued the centuries-old black-on-black pottery traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Through her creative vision and skill, Martinez influenced generations of artists.

Left to right: Clementine Hunter, Untitled, 1981; NMWA, Gift of Evelyn M. Shambaugh; Lola Álvarez Bravo, De generación en generación, ca. 1950; NMWA, Gift of the Artist; © 1995 University of Arizona Foundation, Center for Creative Photography

Entirely self-taught and immensely prolific, Clementine Hunter (ca. 1887–1988) earned critical acclaim for vibrant paintings depicting life in the Cane River region of central Louisiana. Hunter did not start painting until the 1940s, when she was already a grandmother.

Lola Álvarez Bravo (1907–1993) was one of Mexico’s first professional women photographers, documenting daily life and portraying prominent world leaders. Like her friend Frida Kahlo, Álvarez Bravo celebrated the traditional costumes and customs of her country’s varied regions. She cannily blended nationalist content with the expression of universal human emotions.

Lee Krasner, The Springs, 1964; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2012 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lee Krasner (1908–1984) was one of the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. Through six decades devoted to art, she explored innovative approaches to painting and collage. Often overshadowed by her husband, Krasner declared, “I’m always going to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock . . . but I painted before Pollock, during Pollock, after Pollock.”

Want to help advocate for women in the arts? Starting March 1, take the challenge and post about #5WomenArtists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tag us @WomenInTheArts.

Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant 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?”

Narrow 5WomenArtists for press release

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.