The Gender of Grassroots

When you look at a cross-section of the grassroots, contemporary visual arts upstarts in Austin, most were founded by men, or a majority of men form the entities running these spaces (Okay Mountain, ArtPalace, Mass Gallery, Bolm Studios, Fresh Up Club, to name a few). In this brief and underdeveloped analysis, I am not including established institutions that serve contemporary artists such as Women & Their Work, Arthouse, Creative Research Lab, Gallery Lombardi, and AVAA, which do feature women in prominent positions.

But when approached from a traditional angle of defined gender roles, does the perceived nurturing sense of women add something to ensure the longevity of organizations? Can breakout efforts organized by male-dominated groups be seen as a projectiles into the universe that eventually fizzle? Does it go back to the whole male birth-envy thing? Or is it simply the nature of the project, to be short-lived and unsustainable? I think, and I’m sure others would agree with me, that Pump Project – initially organized and run by men as Shady Tree Studios – would have fallen apart by now if it wasn’t for the fact that a handful of women were accepted/forced our way into leadership.

Should what appears to be a gender gap, in the visual art scene is, or should be, an issue at all in the 21st century? Is it some PC/affirmative action-type issue that needs to be addressed? Or is it time to move on to a merit-based system where it’s ultimately the quality of work that matters, not one’s gender.

I just wonder because there seem to be few visible women taking on prominent roles in the emerging local art community. And I don’t mean they’re out there trumpeting, “Hey, look at me, I’m a female and organizing this great show/space/collective!” I just mean giving credit where credit is due.

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