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Gender and the Art Museum

March 3, 2000

The following is a list of discussions presented at the Clark and organized by Katherine Bussard, a graduate student in the Clark/Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art.

Mentors, Role Models, and Pioneers: Women in the Field
Moderator: Amy Hamlin, Graduate Student

There was a time when the museum profession provided no support system for the few pioneering women who could be found in its ranks. But in today’s art museum, certain professionals, acting either as role models or designated mentors, play a large part in catalyzing and advancing the careers of younger female professionals. If such a shift is based on the increase of women in the field, both in terms of numbers and positions, then how might such mentoring continue to be helpful in the future?

Marjorie B. Cohn, Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints, Harvard University Art Museums
Gail Harrity, Chief Operating Officer, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Shamim M. Momin, Assistant Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art

Gendered Jobs: Past, Present, and Future
Moderator: Catherine Steward, Graduate Student

Almost since the opening of the first museums in the United States, women have served those institutions in certain capacities and at particular levels. And while there is no doubt that the number of women entering the museum profession today is increasing at a rapid rate, it is equally true – and only fair – to acknowledge that there remain realms within the profession where women are still, in 2000, relative newcomers. Where is women’s increased participation in museums most and least noticeable? Looking ahead, what might be the practical influences of this trend on museums?

Agnes Gund, President of the Board of Trustees, Museum of Modern Art
Luisa Kreisberg, Founder, The Kreisberg Group Ltd.
Alan Shestack, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, National Gallery of Art

The Old Boys’ Club and Where the Girls Are: Gender-Specific Museums
Moderator: Elizabeth Mangini, Graduate Student

Many smaller museums – college and university museums, museums of regional interest, and so-called alternative spaces – are predominantly staffed by women. Larger museums do not reflect this same gender distribution. An examination of the reasons for this discrepancy may lead to a better understanding of how gender balance might be achieved in all institutions, large and small alike. Alternatively, one might question whether the “correction” of gender imbalances is an advantageous approach.

Hugh Davies, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Luisa Kriesberg, Founder, The Kriesberg Group Ltd.
Anne L. Poulet, Russell B. and Andree Beauchamp Stearns Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emerita, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Susana Torruella Leval, Director, El Museo del Barrio

A Different Product? Gendered Exhibitions and Museum Experiences
Moderator: Leah Sweet, Graduate Student

At a planning meeting for this event, one graduate student was astounded to hear colleagues describe the nature of certain museums or exhibitions as patriarchal. On the other hand, much has been said about the tangible effects of gender and other differences – such as class, ethnicity, or sexuality – on creative processes; just as people are perceived differently, they see differently. Can or do such differences come to bear on an exhibition? If so, how, and if not, why not? Furthermore, is it possible for such differences among a museum’s staff to affect the content, quality, and/or success of the products that reach its public?

Norton Batkin, Director, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
Thelma Golden, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, The Studio Museum in Harlem
Kate Johnson, Chairman of Education, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Patricia M. Mainardi, Professor, Doctoral Faculty in Art History & Women’s Studies, The Graduate School, City University of New York

For more information, contact the Research and Academic Program or call 413-458-0460.

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