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How was Women in Art conceived?



In 2016, I was curating an independent group exhibition in London and during a conversation with an exhibition visitor, they asked me why there were no women artists in the exhibition. Before I could answer, the visitor said, 'well of course there are very few women artists'. 

Not only was I aghast at the statement before me, I was also aghast that there were indeed no women artists in the exhibition. As a feminist art historian I was more than aware of all the women artists (and other creators) who were invisible in history so why was I helping to perpetuate a myth?

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All too aware that women artists weren't as visible as their male counterparts I started to research why. Of course, there are lots of reasons why and most of them are the same reason we have the gender pay gap and very few women in the top jobs and on the boards of companies (if you want some art world statistics click here). It seemed that if I want to right my wrong then I needed to help women artists in their careers. To that aim, a day long workshop was set called, appropriately enough, Women in Art. At this workshop we had gallery owners, art college tutors, social media gurus,award-winning women artists, art legals and bursary awarders come to speak to a group of women artists about how to progress their careers and gain more visibility. In tandem we ran two exhibitions, one of established women artists and an art prize for emerging women artists - The Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize



The Holly Bush Prize, named after main the main sponsor, is now entering its 5th year and it grows year on year. Last year, because of the generosity of Frances Segelman we were able to have a sculpture prize to run alongside the Holly Bush. We have several major sponsor and some smaller ones and lots of great cash prizes. We really wanted the Holly Bush Prize to become a charity but the Charity Commission doesn't like the fact that we want to sell your work for you, so we have instead been able to get Community Interest status and Women in Art are now a Community Interest Company dedicated to helping women artists. 

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2022 and Beyond

As well as administering The Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize and The Lady Petchey Sculpture Prize, Women in Art want to be able to offer bursaries - anything from helping to pay for supplies to helping to pay for a course or studio space. We also want to be able to secure residencies for artists so they can create a body of work around a financially supported project. 

Whatever the future holds you can be sure that we will be doing our best to level up the artistic playing field!

Sue Ecclestone

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