A year after it bought its first permanent home, Women & Their Work will open the doors of its new gallery at 1311 E. Cesar Chavez St. on July 24, the Austin arts organization announced today.
And the inaugural exhibition, which features nine Texas-based artists, has been curated by Vicki Meek, a nationally recognized artist, curator and writer.
In July 2020, after 42 years of leasing various spaces around Austin, and after two years searching for a new home, the non-profit organization purchased the $3 million property, a historic grocery store with an accompanying bungalow and an ample courtyard garden.
Details of public opening events are forthcoming. Women & Their Work will host a fundraiser in the space July 10.
“In thinking about our inaugural show, we wanted a variety of voices from many different perspectives,” said Chris Cowden, Women & Their Work executive director. “When Women & Their Work was founded, a primary strategy was that if women’s art could be seen, its quality would be recognized. This is even more true of women artists of color. So many create very strong work but it’s rarely exhibited. We wanted to address this. Many of the artists in ‘We Know Who We Are. We Know What We Want’ are very well known internationally but little known in Texas even though they all live here and have for some time.”
Entitled “We Know Who We Are: We Know What We Want” the exhibition features Lauren Cross, Nida Bangash, Rehab El Sadek, Angela Faz, Pallavi Govindnathan, Pat Johnson, Lahib Jaddo, Lovie Olivia, and Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga.
Cowden said the choice of Dallas-based Meek as the curator stems from her decades of involvement with the organization, dating back to the the 1990s when Meek served as an artist advisor and had a 1999 solo exhibition. “Her experience and expertise is reflected in this exhibition,” said Cowden.
Meek choose artists, “whose artwork and lives intrigue me and who all take an unapologetic view of their world, to come together in a collective conversation around issues of feminism and humanism,” she said in a statement.
“Each of them speaks their truth about belonging or not belonging, about sisterhood, about othering, about justice or injustice, and about the amplification of their voices.”
Recently named 2021 Texas Artist of the Year by Art League Houston and celebrated by a three-decade retrospective exhibition of her work at the Houston Museum of African American Culture, the Dallas-based Meek has artwork in the permanent collections of the African American Museum in Dallas and The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
In February 2020, Women & Their Work launched a fundraising campaign just a couple of weeks before everything shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Astonishingly, in only a few months, the organization raised $1 million by hosting online fundraising events, enough to make the purchase viable. (The organization also obtained a $1.75 million mortgage.)
The East Austin property is anchored by a 2,400-square-foot high-ceilinged building built in 1890 as a grocery store. In addition there’s a 1200-square-foot house, built at the same time, and a large courtyard garden. Since purchasing the property, the organization has been making modest upgrades and bringing the space up to current accessibility standars.
“We can now exhibit outdoor sculpture and have performances in our new garden, increase our education programs, and host readings, artist talks and performance art,” said Cowden. “This space allows us to dream even bigger.”