National Museum of Women in the Arts
Founded in 1987, NMWA is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. The Museum is located in the heart of Washington, D.C.
By bringing to light remarkable women artists of the past while also promoting contemporary women artists, NMWA directly addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art in the U.S. and abroad, thus assuring great women artists a place of honour now and into the future.
As a not-for-profit organisation, NMWA seeks equity through excellence in the arts. The collection includes 5,500 works of art from the 16thcentury to the present created by over 1000 women artists. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum presents ten world-class exhibitions per year, including exhibitions organized in partnership with important international museums.
Education is at the core of NMWA’s mission, with programs that benefit people of all ages, including the innovative Art, Books and Creativity initiative for teachers. NMWA’s Library and Research Centre houses over 18,500 volumes on women artists from around the world.
NMWA also runs an acclaimed public programs initiative called Women, Arts and Social Change, highlighting the power of women and the arts as catalysts for change. FRESH TALK, the signature program of the initiative, expands the dialogue on what it means to champion women through the arts. Important UK thought leaders such as Tate Modern Director Frances Morris and author and design critic Alice Rawsthorne have participated in the FRESH TALK program.
NMWA in Numbers:
#5WomenArtists, created by NMWA in 2016, is an award-winning social media program with global reach. Every March, during Women’s History Month, NMWA challenges the public and arts institutions around the world to answer the question “can you name five women artists,” raising awareness about the work of women. Institutions and individuals have responded, pledging specific actions to right the art world’s gender imbalance. In 2019, as part of the Tate’s ongoing commitment to increase its representation of women across its platforms, “NMWA x Tate” collaboration was born, expanding the institutional reach of #5WomenArtists. UK Friends of NMWA has actively participated in this program since its inception, joining 750 cultural institutions and 8,000 individuals worldwide.
NMWA and the UK
NMWA’s permanent collection includes works by many UK artists such as Mary Beale, Angelika Kauffmann, Leonora Carrington, and Barbara Hepworth, and gifts from the UK Friends of NMWA of artworks by Elizabeth Frink, Cornelia Parker and Rose Wylie. The museum also houses a significant collection of works by 18thcentury British and Irish women silversmiths.
Important UK artists, including Julia Margaret Cameron and Elizabeth Frink, have been highlighted in monographic shows at NMWA and in 2008 the museum was the only US venue for an important retrospective devoted to Dame Paula Rego.
In 2017 UK Friends of NMWA brought the museum to London by organising and sponsoring the exhibition Terrains of the Body: Photography from the National Museum of Women in the Arts at the Whitechapel Gallery. The exhibition showcased photographs and video from NMWA’s collection created by 17 artists from five continents.
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The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. With its collections, exhibitions, programs, and online content, the museum inspires dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement, and social change. NMWA addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today.
NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005. For more information, call 202-783-5000 or visit nmwa.org
The museum is open Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sun., noon–5 p.m. NMWA is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA members and youth 18 and under. Admission is free the first Sunday of every month for Community Day.
NMWA’s collections feature more than 5,500 works from the 16th century to today created by more than 1,000 artists. Displayed according to key themes, the installation emphasizes connections between historical and contemporary art. The collections encompass work in all mediums, featuring paintings by Frida Kahlo, Lee Krasner, Berthe Morisot, Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald, Alma Woodsey Thomas, Suzanne Valadon, and Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun; sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sarah Bernhardt, Chakaia Booker, Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Dorothy Dehner, Barbara Hepworth, and Louise Nevelson; drawings and works on paper by Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Catlett, Käthe Kollwitz, and Maria Sibylla Merian; photographs by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Lalla Essaydi, Nan Goldin, and Gertrude Käsebier; and videos by Dara Birnbaum, Mwangi Hutter, and Pipilotti Rist.
The museum has presented more than 300 exhibitions showcasing the creative contributions of women artists from around the world. Highlights include The Magic of Remedios Varo (2000), An Imperial Collection: Women Artists from the State Hermitage Museum (2003), Nordic Cool: Hot Women Designers (2004), Berthe Morisot: An Impressionist and Her Circle (2005), Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women (2006), Italian Women Artists from Renaissance to Baroque (2007), Fashion Forward: Photographs by Louise Dahl-Wolfe (2009), Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color (2010), The Guerrilla Girls Talk Back (2011), Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections (2012), Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power (2012), American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s (2013), Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea (2014), She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World (2016), Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today (2017), and Women House (2018).
To educate the public about women’s artistic accomplishments, the museum presents programs for all age groups, engaging visitors with hands-on workshops, conversations with artists, weekly gallery talks, art history lectures, and tours for adults, students, and families. Intergenerational programs and tours for adults, youth, and families emphasize active learning. For visitors who prefer to explore on their own, the museum offers See For Yourself guides, which contain information about artists and works in the collections and special exhibitions. Guide By Cell audio tours are available for selected exhibitions. NMWA’s signature Art, Books, and Creativity (ABC) initiative is a model for integrating the visual arts into the core curriculum of schools. ABC reaches local and national school audiences through annual ABC Teacher Institutes and free web-based resources.
Women, Arts, and Social Change (WASC) is an acclaimed public programs initiative highlighting the power of women and the arts as catalysts for change. These programs convene women from a range of disciplines whose socially conscious ideas are reshaping lives and economies, engaging communities, and empowering women. Fresh Talk, the initiative’s signature program series, assembles prominent women in the arts for creative conversations. Fresh Talk champions women through the arts and advocates for social change. WASC also features Cultural Capital program partnerships, which build community connections with area organizations to increase the museum’s visibility and reach new audiences. Shenson Chamber Music Concerts feature free performances for emerging and established women musicians.
The museum’s website and Broad Strokes Blog inform visitors about women artists in its collections, explore the museum’s exhibitions in greater detail, and provide facts about gender disparity in the arts. The @WomenInTheArts social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others, share website and blog information with a larger audience and highlight women artists around the globe. Award-winning social media initiatives like the #5WomenArtists campaign expand the museum’s reach and raise awareness of gender equity issues in the arts.
With 18,500 books and print resources, and a diverse collection of rare and unique items including artists’ books and zines, the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center invites visitors and researchers to study inspirational women artists. Archival collections include photographs, slides, negatives, and printed ephemera of the Judy Chicago Visual Archive, correspondence from Frida Kahlo, drawings by Doris Lee, and the palette and brush of Eulabee Dix. Institutional archives preserving the museum’s history are also maintained. The library creates rotating exhibitions showcasing its collections material and provides opportunities to discover and interpret primary source research material. The library is open to the public.
NMWA’s 12,000 supporters come from around the United States and 25 other countries. The largest groups of members are from California, Virginia, Maryland, New York, the District of Columbia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey. Women in the Arts is published by NMWA three times a year as a benefit for museum members.
In 1984, the museum created its network of national and international committees. NMWA currently has 22 outreach committees with more than 3,000 dedicated members in the United States and around the world. The museum continues to expand its network with new groups. These global committees spread the museum’s mission, advocate for regional women artists, and serve as NMWA ambassadors. The Women to Watch exhibition series, every two to three years, presents emerging or underrepresented artists from the states and countries in which the museum has committees.
NMWA is a private, not-for-profit organization that is funded through memberships, individual contributions, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, government grants, facility rentals, and retail sales. NMWA’s FY18 annual budget is $11 million, and it has an endowment of $64 million.
Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband, Wallace F. Holladay, admired a 17th-century still life by Flemish painter Clara Peeters on a trip to Europe. The Holladays sought information on Peeters, but found that the definitive art history text, H. W. Janson’s History of Art, made no reference to her or any other female artist. The Holladays began collecting works by women artists in the 1970s, establishing what would become the core of the museum’s holdings. NMWA was incorporated in 1981 as a private, nonprofit museum and opened its doors to the public on April 7, 1987.
Initially designed by architecture firm Wood, Donn & Deming, the museum is located in a 1908 Classical Revival style building that was constructed as a temple for the Masons, an organization that did not allow women members. The 78,810-square-foot main building is listed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior façade incorporates Tuscan and Mediterranean design elements, in addition to Masonic symbolism. In 1983, the museum purchased the building and, after extensive renovation, it opened on April 7, 1987. In 1993, the museum purchased 5,300 square feet of adjacent property, and, after further renovation, the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing opened in 1997, making the entire facility 84,110 square feet.
The Museum Shop offers merchandise inspired by NMWA’s collections and special exhibitions, including art books, note cards, jewelry, and scarves. It also features products by local women artists and designers created specifically for the shop.
Located on the museum’s Mezzanine level, DS Deli is open for weekday lunches 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Menu items include seasonal sandwiches, salads, soups, and coffee, and are crafted in-house using local ingredients and products. There is no museum admission fee in order to visit the café.
NMWA’s director is Susan Fisher Sterling. The museum has 45 full-time employees.
Founded more than 30 years ago to redefine traditional histories of art, NMWA is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing, and literary arts. The museum honors women artists of the past, promotes the accomplishments of women artists of the present, and assures the place of women artists in the future.