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An Artist's Perspective: Women In Art History

Curt Clonts

My now adult daughters, Jessy and Carmen, were raised in the '80s and '90s. I remember feeling quite upset when I would think that my little girls would grow up and might not get equal opportunities in life that men tend to get. 

On top of being women, they are of mixed race heritage, which only heightened my concern. So I began to arm them by asking them a question that was meant to inspire and spur them toward a piqued and competitive way of thinking. I would say, “They say it’s a man’s world out there, so what are YOU going to do about it?” My girls fight hard and I am very proud of where they are both at in their lives.

I recently read “Ninth Street Women” by Mary Gabriel, which gives an in-depth portrait of nine artists, all female, who changed the course of art history in America. The art world has been brutal for artists who are female: lack of representation, lack of care by museums and galleries, lower sales and grossly unequal pay, not to mention the barrage of inappropriate sexual garbage they have been battered with.

In Wichita today, both art museums are headed by women. Mark Arts and CityArts are also headed by women. Two recent local solo exhibitions, one of which grossed over $30,000 and the other over $65,000, were both by artists who were women. Local artists who happen to be women also seem to be getting a fair amount of media attention.

But these ongoing battles have been hard fought, and don’t you ever think they haven’t been. Just because Wichita seems “OK” in this sense doesn’t mean it’s not an uphill battle everyday for women in the arts. I implore us all, especially men, to be hyper-vigilant and make sure that women get the fair and equal treatment they so richly deserve. It isn’t ever a new day until we make it so, every day.