After I met Katie Winten and Isabelle Hore-Thorburn they sent me a link to the article “It’s 2050 and feminism has finally won”. It’s a sassy, feminist piece that mocks the patriarchy and details a future where women reign supreme. “We find humor is a good entry point,” says Winten.
Co-founders of the initiative Women in the Arts, the two met working at White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale. “We were always talking about how much we admire other women and how we’d gotten work through other women keeping an eye out for us or recommending something. So we thought it would be good if people had access to a network like that,” says Hore-Thorburn.
After months of talking about it, Winten went home one day and made the Facebook group on a whim. “It just started out as a network of all the amazing women we knew from different places. It was a space where we could bring them all together and start these conversations. It grew really quickly,” says Winten.
Since then the group has attracted more than 2000 members and is now entirely self-sustaining. Every day people are adding new members; posting job opportunities; exhibition news; callouts for projects; and personal encouragement. As was intended, the network has forged new connections. Via the group Winten and Hore-Thorburn were encouraged to bring the conversation offline and into a physical space.
Women in the Arts IRL is the outcome. Hosted at Verge Gallery, the series of panel discussions began as an extension of the online jobs board but has evolved into a critically engaged dialogue addressing issues of gender inequality and a lack of representation of women in the arts.
“We’ve intentionally had a broad range of women speak, like Jess Scully [Vivid Ideas curator]; Angela Tiatia [multimedia artist]; Laura Bannister [editor of Museum magazine]; and Nicole Monks [trans-disciplinary artist]. All boss women who do really great things in really different spaces,” says Hore-Thorburn.
Embracing their role as facilitators, the two have purposefully made the organisation faceless. “It’s not about us, we don’t have the answers. We’re creating this space so that people who need a voice can speak,” says Winten.
Following on from the second Women in the Arts IRL all-Indigenous panel, the third edition of the panel will delve into the contemporary experience of feminism, and explore how we can create different structures and fight against unbalanced systems. “We’re looking at the way feminism has been rebranded and sold back to women as a commodity,” says Hore-Thorburn. The upcoming panel will feature contemporary artists Okapi Neon and Samia Sayed, project manager of The Ladies Network Emmeline Peterson and will be moderated by writer Kelly Azizi.
Currently Winten and Hore-Thorburn are building a mentorship network and running an event alongside the Australian Design Centre’s Indigenous mentoring program. “We’re planning a feminist film-screening series in the Freda’s basement.” Plans for a website to house documentation of their past events, job opportunities and links to relevant articles are also underway. Talks of a podcast series called Girls to the Front, an unsubtle nod to the ’90s feminist punk band Bikini Kill, is also high on the priority list.
Women in the Arts IRL #3 – Feminist Identities and Contemporary Art: Panel Discussion and Social will be held on September 14 from 5pm–7pm at Verge Gallery. The talk is free.