There is a toxic misconception that surrounds feminism, and that misconception is that to be pro-women you must by default be anti-men. You would think that by the year 2017 we as a society could extinguish that myth. Feminism is NOT a movement to discourage men. Feminism is NOT a movement to promote women superiority. And you DON'T need to be female to be a feminist. Stated simply, feminism IS a movement that promotes equality.
In 2015, white women who worked full-time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what white men were paid. This leads to an income inequality gap of 20 percent. This gap has narrowed since 1960, but at the current rate of change, women won't reach pay equality with men until 2059 - a statistic that is abysmal. These statistics are even more atrocious when you examine pay inequality for women from minority groups. Black women are paid just 62 percent and hispanic women 57 percent of what their white male counterparts are paid.
Artists play a crucial role in society as advocates and agents for change. Their work can be leveraged as a platform to bring important issues to the foreground of society's attention. Through their medium of choice, artists harness their creative energy and dismantle barriers that prevent critical conversations from occurring. The arts and culture sector tends to be an innovator as it relates to equity and equal opportunities. However, there is still room for drastic improvements to be made within this sector.
A 2009 report released by the National Endowment for the Arts indicates that 51% of visual artists today are women. Most art departments in schools, however, continue to run male-centered curriculums. Furthermore, works by women artists make up only an estimated 3-5 percent of major permanent collections in the US and Europe. Compound this with the fact that of 590 major exhibits by nearly 70 institutions in the US from 2007-2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists. Though women earn half of the MFAs granted in the US, only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women.
These statistics are what led Kimberly Miller to found FemArt Gallery, a 501(c)(3) that celebrates, educates, nurtures, and provides opportunities to female artists. On June 15, 2017, the organization will host an opening reception for its inaugural exhibit, "A Woman's Soul - from Desert to City." The exhibit will be featured in Jacksonville's urban core in the Downtown Duval Building, located at 10 S. Newnan Street.
Miller, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, joined the United States Navy in 1980 and served her country until 1990. Interestingly, this makes Miller the second woman to own an art gallery in Jacksonville and have previously served in the military, the other being Laura Bennett of The Space Gallery. After exiting the Navy, Miller started her family in Boston, Massachusetts. Miller then moved to Jacksonville in 2004 with her husband and two children.
Miller worked as a self-taught artist upon settling in Jacksonville. She painted murals for residential and commercial clients while building her artwork portfolio through private commissions. It was in the fall of 2013 that Miller decided to pursue an arts degree and she enrolled at the University of North Florida (UNF), where, in the spring of 2017, she obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA).
As a visual artist, Miller's mediums of choice include oil, acrylic, watercolor, and oil pastels. Her work is a social commentary that focuses on subject matters in the style of realism. Miller utilizes portraitures and common recognizable images in an unexpected simplistic nature pertaining to very complex issues. Miller's work has been exhibited at the Vandroff Art Gallery, the Yergin Gallery, CoRK Arts District, and the 2017 UNF Spring Student Show.
10 Questions with Kimberly Miller
What is the mission of your organization?
FemArt Gallery believes that women artists must be celebrated and valued in our society. We offer opportunities and empowerment for women artists through art exhibitions, education, and community outreach.
When was your organization formed and what led to its formation?
We were officially recognized as a Florida business on March 17, 2017. We received confirmation of our 501(c) 3 on May 12, 2017.
The women’s art gallery concept began about a week after I returned from marching in Washington D.C. on January 21st. Fully enthralled with women’s rights and committed to promoting women, I was motivated by an article I read by Guerrilla Girls titled "Do Women Have to be Naked to Get into the Met. Museum?" This article was the catalyst for me starting a non-profit women’s art gallery. I recruited other women artists and we began our journey of promoting women in the visual arts in early February.
The educational component grew from talking to a classmate at the University of North Florida (UNF), where I was enrolled for my final semester in pursuit of my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. I was sharing my gallery idea when an auditing student told me that she had not stepped into an art gallery until she was in her 30’s. This woman was now in her 60’s and was born and raised in Jacksonville. She explained that being an African American woman raised during the Jim Crow period in the South made it impossible to access art galleries and museums. Her words struck me and inspired the expansion of the gallery concept to include an educational component.
The success of our students depends on their needs being met on multiple levels. Our curriculum develops the skill proficiency and portfolios for the criteria requirements of advanced art degree programs; each student will be mentored by a professional artist and given opportunities to enter juried art shows; healthy and nutritious snacks will be provided to fulfill basic health needs; and, unique to our program, is an innovative art therapy option provided by a licensed art therapist. The art therapist will provide creative methods in developing the coping skills needed by students who have experienced traumas such as rape, domestic violence, or any other crisis that requires therapy.
What strategies are in place within your organization for you to engage your audiences?
FemArt Gallery’s Board and Directors are committed to providing memberships, events, fundraisers, and artist presentations to the Jacksonville community so that everyone has an opportunity to be involved in our celebration of women artists. We believe that the voices of women artists are vital to a better community and society. Artists voices will be heard through a myriad of subject matters, diverse mediums in paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, and printmaking. The unique and individual nature of each artist will educate and enlighten novice and collectors alike.
Why is art and culture important?
I would like to answer this question pertaining to why art and culture are important to women.
Leo Tolstoy, in "What Is Art?," defines art as follows:
"To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling--this is the activity of art.
Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to other’s feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and, also experience them.
And if men lacked this other capacity of being infected by art, people might be almost more savage still, and, above all, more separated from, and more hostile to, one another."
In my opinion, it is the stifling of so many women’s voices in the arts that deprive our society of a feminine consciousness that would ultimately make our humanity more complete. Our culture continues to be defined by limited experience in our society and we must remedy and balance our cultural diversity with more diverse voices in the arts.
Art and culture are vital in our society to share viewpoints and bring awareness of all struggles and pleasures to the masses, but only if it includes all the voices that make up our cultural identity.
I am not stating that more exposure to women in the arts would bring world peace…but, it may start a dialogue about world peace. Recognizing women’s voices in the arts is crucial to reaching a full and diverse cultural identity. We need more women’s voices heard through the arts so that we may honor our cultural richness fully.
What’s your organization’s next major milestone and is this milestone part of a long-term plan?
Our next major milestone is the opening reception of our first exhibit. Our Call to Women Artists for this exhibit ended on June 9th with a reception planned for June 15th from 7:00-9:00 p.m. The location of our exhibit is 10 S. Newnan Street in downtown Jacksonville. After that, our next milestone is to establish a permanent gallery later this year.
Does your organization partner with other organization(s)?
We are currently involved with events held by the Women’s Center of UNF and are reaching out to organizations that share our passion for women and the arts.
What would you like to see in Jacksonville as an effort to grow the city’s creative economy?
More artists! Jacksonville will rise as a city as artists emerge with creative solutions.
We would like to see a more diverse landscape of galleries. Exhibiting artists of all genres and the myriad of art forms creates intrigue and excites investors, which promotes growth in our city. There are so many different women artists who have a variety of valuable experiences to share. My hope is that by launching this fresh gallery concept that others will soon follow and flourish with us and contribute to the cultural richness of Jacksonville.
I'd like to highlight two distinct programs that we are developing and that we will offer through our gallery. As a military veteran artist, I take great pride in promoting other female veterans who create images that are free of regulations and rules set by a paternalistic society. Additionally, while studying American Sign Language at UNF, I discovered a list of women artists who are deaf and offer a fresh perspective with their art. Because of that we will be working directly with both veteran and deaf women artists.
What do you feel are the greatest challenges that your organization currently faces?
The greatest challenge for our organization is getting the word out. Our women artists will sell themselves because their work is magnificent. We just need to get the public to our exhibits and allow our artists to tell their stories and have their voices heard.
Where do you see your organization in five years?
My vision for FemArt Gallery is to see a flourishing women's art gallery that has not only local but national recognition. I foresee our educational art program as having a large attendance and an important impact on the lives of all young women who walk through our doors and choose art as their vocation. I believe that Jacksonville will take pride in our contributions to the cultural expansion of our great city.
How can others get involved with your organization?
There are many opportunities for involvement with our organization. We always need volunteers who are passionate for the visual arts and have time to assist us with event planning and social media promotions. We are a young organization with big dreams for a better community and greatly appreciate funding support. The smallest of donations are much appreciated and make significant impacts on our growth and operations. Additional opportunities are listed on our website.