The creativity stage is big enough to share

Published 5:40 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

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Think of some famous painters and sculptors. How many of the names that pop into your head belong to men?

Now think of the novelists and poets you studied in school or the authors of the books you choose to read for fun. You probably can think of several men and maybe a couple of women as the first names to pop into your head.

Now think of some famous musicians and singers and songwriters. The odds are you can name several very quickly, and it’s probably a mix of men and women. But count up your results. Are there more men than women?

This is all some very broad generalizing, of course, because everyone’s answers will be different. But I’ll admit that when playing this hypothetical game for myself, the more famous male artists always popped up in my head before the women did. And, in fact, when it comes to painters, the only female painter I could even recall being familiar with was Frida Kahlo.

There are just so many male artists out there that women who create different kinds of art don’t always get the recognition they deserve. This isn’t to say that male artists aren’t deserving of their praises. It’s just that sometimes it’d be nice for women to share the spotlight too.

I read an encouraging NPR article earlier this week about the Baltimore Museum of Art’s plan to only purchase works from female artists next year as a way to increase representation in their collection. According to the article, the museum currently has 95,000 works but only 3,800 are by women artists and designers. That’s only four percent!

The museum director Christopher Bedford was quoted as saying, “You don’t just purchase one painting by a female artist of color and hang it on the wall next to a painting by Mark Rothko. To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.”

The NPR article also pointed to two disheartening studies that show male artists are showcased a lot more frequently than women artists. One study said that up to 10 percent of art galleries don’t feature a single woman artist at all.

So I think this is a great first step that the Baltimore museum is taking, and I hope it catches on elsewhere across the country.

In all different kinds of creative expression—art, music, writing, dance, etc—I’d love to see more women get the recognition they deserve. I think there’s enough room on stage for all of us to share the space.

And an added benefit of showing more women-created works is that it encourages more young women and girls to pursue their own creative dreams. Of course, there have been plenty of women who have worked to create different kinds of art over the years, but imagine how many more there could be with more artists to look up to and draw inspiration from.

If you know any young artists, please encourage them to keep going! They may be destined for the Baltimore Museum of Art one day, or perhaps another place of prestige to show off their work. Personally, writing has always been my passion, but I wouldn’t be writing today if not for the encouragement I received when I was young and also seeing other women be successful authors.

Let’s go back to that thought experiment at the opening of my column. If you couldn’t think of many women in those categories, go look some up. You might find something new to enjoy.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at 252-332-7206.