The New Britain Museum of American Art is trying to make a big change in the art world by uplifting the work of artists of color and women artists.
In 2020, the museum launched a new initiative – 2020: 20+ Women initiative -- to push forward the work of women artists, who are generally underrepresented in the art world.
“Only 14% of our collection is comprised of women artists and when you break it down by ethnicity and racial background the statistics are even lower, so that gave us a great motivation in terms of strategizing” said Lisa Hayes Williams, assistant curator at NBMAA.
The museum said the displays of 2020 are only the beginning of an effort to diversify their collection and offer a bigger platform to artists whose work is underrepresented.
The racial reckoning and unrest of the summer of 2020 also birthed an opportunity for the museum to accelerate their shift in real time showcasing women artists who’ve used their voices for change.
“They really using their work as a platform to bring awareness to the experiences of women, some of the struggles of women and the goals that we’re seeking to achieve” said Williams.
Exhibitions on view through 2020 also celebrated the anniversary of women’s suffrage milestones and the right to vote for women.
Connecticut In Color
As part of the museum’s effort, artist Shantell Martin’s exhibition, "New/Now," will be on view at NBMAA through April 18, 2021.
The London-born, New Jersey-based visual artist’s piece, "Transparency," is a massive, 40-foot mural she created inside of the museum. Martin’s work with bold lines made through markers creative and also a tool she uses to show accessibility to all who see her work.
"I want people to see the accessibility of the work, but also kind of be inspired that you can create these larger things with tools we all have access to," she said
As a Black, female and foreign-born artist, Martin said she’s faced continuing questions and attempts at undermining her work, but persists and continues to embrace new successes, hoping to set example and remind others to dream.
“I find it so important to talk about my background and where I’m from because I know that that can inspire and show other people that you can do these careers, you can be an artist, you can go to museums” said Martin.
Museum CEO Min Jung Kim said by diversifying the museum’s collection, they are representing America’s changing face and that of the real community they serve.
“We want to be able to share a picture of American art, particularly in the 21st century, that really celebrates that rich and varied diversity” said Kim.
The museum said since beginning their initiative, they have recently acquired 18 works by 12 women artists to add to the museum’s permanent collection.
You can learn more about the NBMAA’s current and upcoming exhibitions by visiting: https://www.nbmaa.org/.