Inclusion in the Art World

Inclusion in the Art World

Shari Weinberger

I am the manager of the Galleries at Sprout CoWorking with locations in Providence and Warren, RI. Sprout CoWorking PVD is in the Rising Sun Mills, right in the Valley Arts District in Providence. Sprout CoWorking Warren is right on Main Street in the heart of Warren. Sprout CoWorking is a place where remote workers, entrepreneurs, startups, individuals, and businesses organically collaborate, network, and grow. Our art galleries, in both locations, host new art displays each month to create dynamic work spaces, spark creative thinking, and promote and support local artists.

I started these galleries from scratch in January 2016 at Sprout’s inception. From that time, I was on the board of Gallery Night Providence, serving as president of the board from Dec 2018 – July 2021. Recently I received a letter from Art for Good in the mail. It was addressed to Mr. Gallery Owner, beginning with the words Dear Sir. Why not just “Dear Gallery Owner?”

Art for Good has a lovely mission. They use the visual arts to promote mental health and well-being. My interest was piqued, but at the same time I was not interested in participating in an organization that feeds into the patriarchy. By assuming that I was a man, actually by assuming all gallery owners are men, they alienated me and likely all women owned galleries. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 70% of BFAs in the US are awarded to women and 75% of MFAs. According to a 2015 survey done by the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Museum staff are more than 60% women, which was once again confirmed by the Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey of 2018 which concluded that “Women make up a majority of professional art museum staff.” Why in the world would this marketing email come addressed to Dear Sir, when it was likely that the recipients were more than 50% women? How could an organization whose mission is inclusive be so gender biased? 

The Gallery Night Providence board includes many other notable local women in the arts: Paula Martiesian, a founder of Gallery Night and curator of the Bank RI Galleries; and Dr Victoria Goa, the treasurer of Gallery Night and Director of the Bannister Gallery and Exhibitions at Rhode Island College; and Deb Clemons, Assistant Director of Public and Academic Programs at the RISD Museum. Not just in notable positions in galleries and museums, Rhode Island is very rich with female artists working in all mediums across the state.

Additionally, If you look at the staff of RISCA (Rhode Island State Council on the arts, you will see that the majority of the staff (8 of 11) are women, including the ones I work with most closely, Maggie Anderson, Director, Arts in Education; Elena Calderón Patiño, Director of Community Arts Program; Mollie Flanagan, Individual Artists Program Director.

The bottom line is that Rhode Island is a fantastically rich environment for women, working with the art world AND creating art. If our local population is indicative of the national trend, I can corroborate with the national statistics and confidently state that the art world in Ri is no longer a male dominated sector. That is not to say that our pay is equal. There is definitely room for gender equity improvement. However, in 2022, no one should be sending letters addressed to Mr. Gallery Owner, Mr. Artist, or Mr. Anything! Rather than chucking the letter in the trash, I decided to be proactive and sent Art for Good an email pointing out the error and asking them to be more thoughtful about gender inclusivity. One tiny step toward systemic change in the art world. Will they get the message? 


 Shari Weinberger is the Gallery Manager at the Galleries at Sprout CoWorking She is the immediate past president of Gallery Night Providence, and has worked closely with artists all over the state with the support of RISCA


Photo credit: Alicia Gregory, NMWA