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‘You can’t find us’: A ‘super fierce’ exhibit exposes art’s disparity

'Superfierce' addresses super startling statistic

WTOP's Rachel Nania

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WASHINGTON The next time you visit a museum, take note of the names on the artwork.

Chances are, most of what’s displayed is by a man.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 51 percent of visual artists today are women, but female artists make up only 3 to 5 percent of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe.

“People hear that and they’re like, ‘No, that’s impossible. I know lots of women artists.’ Sure, but are they in these civil institutions that document our society and our culture?” said Maggie O’Neill, a D.C.-based artist.

“What if half of the artwork in the world went missing? You know, it already is, kind of. It’s just not there, which is so weird.”

But you’d never guess that if you walked into Blind Whino, an old church-turned-arts-space, just a few blocks from Nationals Park. Inside, murals, prints and interactive exhibits — all done by female artists cover every inch of the 15,000-square-foot building.

“It’s uniquely feminine; it’s supposed to be bold. We are just making it known that there were a bunch of female artists here,” O’Neill said.

A quick peek inside the men’s room — just past a hall of nipples — makes that pretty apparent.

Superfierce, a monthlong event headed by O’Neill, is taking over Blind Whino through Nov. 4. In addition to gallery hours, the exhibit features panels, parties, retail and networking opportunities — all with the goal to grow and strengthen the female art community.

“The pendulum is so far in one direction, you can’t just scoot it slightly in order to make that change. You really have to make a big splash, and I think that’s what we’re doing here,” O’Neill said.

Pieces from well-known artists, including Anne Marchand and Ashley Longshore, hang alongside up-and-coming talent. Nearby, an orange- and yellow-painted room pays homage to Madame Clicquot of Veuve Clicquot, one of the event’s sponsors, and the “Lyft lounge” provides visitors with a space for collaboration.

Events on the calendar include a “Haute Halloween Bash,” on Oct. 27, plus portfolio review days, business strategy planning panels and a #likeaboss party.

After its run in D.C., O’Neill plans to take Superfierce on the road to other major cities, including New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

“The only way [the disparity] is changing is if we get organized,” O’Neill said.

“You do have to have a sense of humor about being this bold, otherwise, you could really just fall on your face. You do have to be super fierce in order to keep plugging through a lot of the roadblocks that come up, particularly in this career path.”


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