It's no secret to say that the social landscape is changing––and fast. And yet, the statistics the inclusion of women artists and artists of color in US institutions show little signs of improvement towards greater representation. A recent study conducted by the Public Library of Science found that a whopping 85% of museum collections consist of work by white men. Furthermore, less than 1% each are works by Black women, Latinx women, Asian women, and other women of color. We've all seen the splashy headlines and institutional marketing emphasizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, but does the data back up these promises to change?
A 2019 survey of the United States' top 18 museums found that the acquisition numbers of works by female artists have stagnated since their peak in 2009. As such, Liezel Strauss of Art Girl Rising, Pegah Kargar of Repaint History, Ferren Gipson, Svitlana Martynjuk of All SHE Makes, Kaylan Buteyn of the Artist/Mother Podcast, Lauren Jackson Harris of Black Women in Visual Art, Karline Moeller of Art; Frankly, Hall W. Rockefeller of Less Than Half and Jamie Smith of Thrive Studio, have joined forces to create Fair Art 2030. This new pledge project encourages art organizations not only to make public statements, but also to take action.
By joining Fair Art 2030, signatories agree to work towards two goals: to achieve at least 50% representation of women and non-binary artists and 40% BIPOC+ representation on museum, gallery, and art fair walls, programming, and management by 2030. The Fair Art 2030 Pledge is also in keeping with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. I had the opportunity to speak more with one of the key team members of this initiative, Svitlana Martynjuk to learn more.
How and when did the idea for Fair Art 2030 initially come together?
The initial ideas about Fair Art 2030 started at the end of 2018 through Liezel Strauss (ArtGirlRising). Like many of us who do advocacy work, Liezel was getting frustrated with the lack of inclusionary efforts in museums and galleries. At the time, she had loosely formed thoughts around a sort of pledge project, but it wasn't until 2019 after a trip to the UN as part of their 'She Innovates' program that these loose initial ideas started to align. Like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to be achieved by 2030, Liezel envisioned her own 2030 goals for this pledge and everything shifted into place.
It is led by a dream team of women leaders in the arts! How did you all connect?
In early 2020, Liezel took action in reaching out to Jamie Smith (Thrive Studio), Lauren Jackson Harris (Black Women in Visual Art), and Ferren Gipson to discuss some of her ideas for the project. Together Jamie and Lizel made numerous discovery calls to art organizations gathering data and researching. Shortly after, a solid group of talented people joined the Fair Art 2030 team; Kaylan Buteyn (Artist/Mother Podcast), Karline Moeller (Art; Frankly), Hall W. Rockefeller (Less Than Half). Of course then COVID happened and the world came to a standstill. The group kept in contact through the pandemic however, and the project remained on their minds.
During the pandemic Pegah Kargar (Repaint History) had reached out to Liezel with a similar idea and shortly after I had also reached out to Liezel to share a pledge idea of my own. This serendipitous union of ideas, which had begun separately, helped to reignite the team's inspiration and we continued to push forward with the Fair Art 2030 project.
Can you speak to the importance of this initiative for you personally, both as an artist and as the founder of All She Makes?
As an artist, I've been professionally active in the arts since 2011. It always seemed like artists were viewed as second-class citizens in comparison to other occupations unless they were an incredibly successful person in the eyes of society. There were not many venues or organizations that truly advocated for the artists. It felt a bit lonely knowing that we, the artists, solely held our own best interest in mind and had to look out for ourselves. Knowing that Fair Art 2030 exists gives me a reassurance of sorts that things indeed are moving in the right direction, that it's not just empty talk like we've seen from organizations before, that I can call-out a gallery which shows 90% white male artists and that statement will be taken seriously. Societal expectations are changing and with us, these institutions can publicly proclaim their commitment to accurate representation. And if they haven't yet, then the question is: Why not? What are they hiding from?
The importance of Fair Art 2030 from my perspective as founder of All SHE Makes is that I truly view our participation and effort in creating impact on a bigger scale as an honor. It's one of the things I'm most proud of. The Fair Art Pledge is only the beginning of many more positive changes to come. The fact that our organization gets to collaborate with other change-makers, who share the same goal of increasing visibility for underrepresented artists, is truly a dream come true.
Beyond greater diversity (which, of course, is very important), what changes do you think the art world at large will see as a result of committing to change and striving to be more inclusive?
I think there will be more unity. More awareness of the problem creates an inevitable desire to do something about it. Once art institutions see their peers participating and taking part in creating change, we hope that it will enable a much-needed domino effect in making a contrast from how the art world is operating currently. There is still a lot of secrecy, elitism, and separation right now. I hope that by creating a common goal, we can all come together and work for the greater good, whatever that may look like.
I'm also looking at it realistically. As with any organizational change, it takes a great effort to actually shift the culture within these institutions. I think that committing to any pledge is a first-step in the right direction. The way the Fair Art 2030 Pledge is set up, institutions report back with the results of their efforts periodically. It's not just a “sign it, get a sticker, and forget it” type of deal. This adds a new layer of inherent goals for those involved across various organizational levels. As societal demands are changing, thinking of diversity and inclusion will breed more responsibility across other aspects of people's lives.
For additional information please visit www.fairart2030.org or follow @fairart2030.