Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Glass Ceilings: Four Women in the Arts

I haven't written in a while simply because I have not been inspired. I have also been putting together some projects which I will announce in due time. But last night, something happened. I went to a monthly meeting of a group I joined several months ago called "ArtTable." The ArtTable is an association of professional women in the visual arts, founded in NYC but with branches in most major US cities. Last night's meeting was a panel discussion on the brilliant Christo & Jeanne-Claude "Surrounded Islands" installation in Biscayne Bay in 1983. While the work of art was provocative and moving, what was magical for me was to witness four heroines of the early days of the Miami art scene come together to share their amazing experiences with us. The four women were: Paula Harper, Ruth Shack, Helen Kohen, and Margarita Cano (as pictured right to left-note that two women wore hot pink in honor of the installation!).

To give some of you some insight into the event here is how the invitation read:

"Surrounded Islands" was to be a temporary art event, but what transpired during the preparation of the project and what its gorgeous unveiling on Biscayne Bay meant to Miami still reverberates today. The dressing of 11 spoil islands in pink plastic was the catalyst that turned a culturally sleepy town into a vital city, home to art and artists. The panelists for the May ArtTable program, participants and monitors of "Surrounded Islands", will share their memories of the roles played by individual citizens and special interest groups during those contentious days leading to the "live" exhibition portion of their uncommon, common efforts.

Margarita Cano: As head of
Art Services at Miami's library system, it was her initiative that gave us the first glimpses of what "Surrounded Islands" might look like when Christo's earliest drawings and sketches of the project were exhibited at Main Library in 1982.

Paula Harper, Ph.D.: Professor of
Art History at UM, and the Art Critic at the Miami News during the period under discussion, she is a well-known Christo scholar, familiar with most all the couple's projects about which she has both written and lectured.

Ruth Shack: Recently retired President and CEO of the Dade Community Foundation, she was a
Dade County Commissioner from 1976 to 1986, in the "hot seat" during the time the Christo project was the focus of attention from local, state and national governmental friends (she was one) and foes (there were many).

Moderated by Helen L. Kohen.
Art Historian, Critic, Consultant to Main Library's Vasari Project [an archive of the visual arts in Miami from 1945 to the present]

I should say that the only thing contrary to my title "No Glass Ceilings" was the brief discussion that at the time of the project, credit was only given to Christo as an artist. His wife and partner, Jeanne-Claude, was president of their corporation, and was the person who made everything happen, but as he was the one behind the drawings, models, etc, he was considered the sole "creator." It was not until 1995, that the couple changed the accreditation of ALL their works to "Christo and Jeanne-Claude," acknowledging that without the logistics, all of their ideas would have remained just that, ideas.
Lastly, I sat next to Dr. Carol Damian, the director of the Frost Museum at FIU, and another pioneer in Miami's art scene. I left inspired by these women, let's just see where that inspiration takes me.

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