It’s easy for some to forget that not that long ago in history, women had few opportunities for making art, much less becoming professional artists. Even today there are challenges, which is why it’s important to highlight the oldest women’s fine art organization in the country, the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA).
“NAWA was founded by a group of women artists not content to be kept out of salons, exhibitions and galleries open to male artists in the 19th century,” Amy Hutto, a juried member of NAWA, says. “While great strides have been made, women artists continue to be underrepresented and our work undervalued monetarily compared to our male counterparts still today. Our goals, among many others, are to educate, inspire, promote and celebrate the art work and accomplishments of women artists, our members in particular.”
Hutto, a colorist whose subject focus is on domestic and wild animals, is from Austin, Texas, and currently lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
I had the opportunity to ask Hutto a few questions about the importance and benefits of NAWA, including a question that makes women in particular cringe.
Cherie Dawn Haas: Can you tell me a little about yourself please, and why you chose to join NAWA?
Amy Hutto: I chose to join NAWA because of its prestigious reputation, historical significance and its long history of spotlighting the under-represented art of women in a predominately male oriented profession.
I also wanted to connect with other artists across the country, and now I converse regularly with professional women artists in Colorado, South Carolina, and all over. I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the art world in real-time.
CDH: What is your response when someone says, “They don’t have an association just for men?”
AH: I explain that the art world has traditionally been an association for men. Men have long dominated salons, galleries, and museums throughout history. Many women don’t even sign their full name on their work, just their initials, to remove any preconceived notions about art created by a woman. The National Association of Women Artists is working to change that narrative.
CDH: What are some of the ways in which men can support NAWA and women artists in general?
AH: NAWA does have many men who support us and we appreciate them a great deal! We have men on our Executive Board of Directors who support women artists. Men who are in the business of art whether as creators, gallery owners, curators, etc…acknowledgement; in-kind recognition and more inclusive practices that strive for more balanced representation; and additionally to support efforts for women created works of art to be monetarily valued as equal to that of men’s art.
Non-members of the art world can also show their support of NAWA through financial donations and endowments which allow us to grow our organization, hence increasing awareness of women artists and their contributions to the art industry.
CDH: What are some of the benefits of joining NAWA?
AH: There are so many benefits of joining NAWA; national exposure through NAWA’s website, the ability to participate in exhibitions that are exclusive to NAWA members both online and in exhibition spaces, the contacts one can establish with artists across the country, the support of other artists experiencing the same issues in our industry, access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise shared with other members on our social media sites, as well as having artwork listed in our catalogs and stored in the archives at Alexander Library at Rutgers University. I could go on and on.
I will add just one more thing. Being able to be a part of this historical organization whose sole purpose is to empower women artists, and to see my name alongside artist powerhouses such as Mary Cassatt, Faith Ringgold, and Judy Chicago is an enormous honor. Such a feeling of accomplishment is difficult to put in words.
CDH: Have there been any unexpected positive results for the artists in this association?
AH: Yes, having our organization featured here! Thank you very much for the opportunity to visit with you and share a little about NAWA and our artists. You never know where connections will lead, and you don’t make connections unless you reach out.
I reached out to join NAWA and once I was accepted, a whole world of opportunity opened for me. That’s what we want for our members; to show them that we value them as an artist by selecting them through a juried process to join our esteemed organization and by providing ongoing opportunities for education, inspiration and promotion of their work – connecting with them not only on a professional level, but personal level.
CDH: Does NAWA have any upcoming exhibitions?
AH: We currently have “The Resilience of Grief” and “Winter Small Works,” which are online exhibitions that will carry us into spring. They will be followed by “Special Women / HERstory” and an invitational exhibition, Art Angels which will lead into our first summer exhibition for our new members held in June.
One not to miss premier’s in October with NAWA’s 132nd Annual Members Exhibition. Our Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Florida Chapters are holding both virtual and live exhibitions. A complete list can also be found online at: thenawa.org.
CDH: Anything else you’d like to add?
AH: I’d like to mention that NAWA Headquarters recently moved into a new location. We are now privileged to call the National Arts Club building at Gramercy Park South in New York City our new home. This is a beautiful and historically significant building and when we are able to return to in person shows, we will have an incredible new space to host them in.
In the meantime, please visit our website www.thenawa.org and like our Facebook page @TheNAWA, to see what our incredible artists and the organization is doing. Lastly I want to thank you again for the opportunity to share a little about the National Association of Women Artists. Having a chance to highlight the issue of under-representation of women artists, is critical. Art is an ever-evolving form of expression that belongs to all of us. We each have the power to change the status quo for the betterment of not only ourselves, but the women artists who come after us.