The purpose of this study is to bring to the forefront the lives and experiences of women artists within one context, the Women's Studio Workshop. In order to ensure that women artists have equal inclusion in the canon, we must record their lives and work (Sandell & Collins, 1997; Korzenik, 1990; Nochlin, 1971). In response to the lack of opportunities, U.S. women artists have organized for more than a century (Briggs, 1932; Skiles, 1975; Sturken, 1978). An upsurge of women's artist organizations occured during the early 1970s feminist art movement as a part of the larger women's liberation movement (Brodsky, 1994). Driven by my curiosity about women artist organizations, I located a present day group of women artists to research. The overarching question "What is the nature of one woman centered art space?" guided my inquiry and the overarching theme of giving voice to the women artists shaped the story. The Women's Studio Workshop is one example of a women's artist community that provides support, education, exhibition, employment, and empowerment to women artists since the early 1970s. Fully immersed in the environment, I observed daily activities, interviewed staff and visiting artists, and participated in the community on three separate visits over the course of 18 months.
The findings are presented as a series of little narratives that thread together to tell one story of the Women's Studio Workshop. The stories revealed a community with connection to history and its surrounding environment. The Women's Studio Workshop is its own miniature art world that is both separate from and working within the art world at large. A grass-roots nonprofit organization, the workshop provides opportunities for women artists to create art in a room of their own. The workshop is a place where artists from several different generations can usually be found collaborating, sharing, and growing together. Although the workshop does not hold an overtly political agenda, indeed the actions of the workshop are woman-centered, which sets the stage for political activity and dialogue. Women reportedly felt more comfortable in a woman-centered environment, free to have intimate conversations and talk without censoring their words. This feminist inspired inquiry was shaped largely by my own personal perspective, which is explicitley stated throughout the findings and intrepretations.
For art education, this literature will be another example of a women's artist organization that functions as a community arts program by collaborating with local schools and an example of women artists organizing and making their way in the world as artists despite discriminatory obstacles and as an example of careers in the arts for both the female and male art student. For the disclipline of women's studies, this paper will serve as another source of feminist praxis, illustrating where and how action reflects and supports feminist theory as well as contributing to the documentation of women's lives and experiences.