” A Celebration of the Providence Art Club as a cultural force for women artists.”
After having viewed the exhibition of Making Her Mark at the Providence Art Club in Providence, Rhode Island, and attending the symposium, I felt compelled to write some of the immediate impressions I felt in regard to this event.
As an exhibiting artist member of the Providence Art Club, I have never thought much about the cultural aspect of my being a “woman” artist in the club, as I had when starting my studies in art over thirty years ago and reading The Obstacle Race by Germaine Greer. It appeared to me that there were many woman artists in the club so I didn’t feel like I do in technology, clearly a minority. What has crossed my mind in regard to a club membership of any kind was more about the cultural diversity of race and social class even though I had learned early on that Edward Bannister was one of the original founders of the Providence Art Club and had a gallery named after him at Rhode Island College in 1978. You can visit wikipedia to learn more about Edward Bannister (ca. 1828 – January 9, 1901) who was a Black Canadian-American Tonalist painter.
But in regard to the history of the Providence Art Club and the “extraordinary contributions of women artists”, it wasn’t until I walked through the exhibit and viewed the paintings of the founding woman of the club along with the text accompanying the work, was I struck by my affinity toward these pioneers. I started to feel an indescribable elation to see such a passion and commitment to art and the artistic community. Their journey was clearly outlined by Co-Curators Catherine Little Bert and Nancy Whipple Grinnell.
During the symposium, I learned more about the leadership and transformation by women artists who founded the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence Art Club and Wheeler School. While listening to a panel discussion of collectors one particular story stood out for me in regard to Ellen Day Hale, who’s work was found at an estate sale. Had it not been for this happenstance, these remaining works of art could easily have been lost in obscurity.
Making Your Mark
Following the exhibit of these amazing women artists of their time, was a national juried exhibit titled Making Your Mark. This show was juried by Kathryn Wat, PdD, Chief Curator of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Over 950 artworks were submitted for consideration and 65 were selected by the juror, five of whom were Providence Art Club members. I was truly honored and at the same time humbled to be part of this tribute to women who continue to make their mark regardless of the obstacles.