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The Aldrich Museum: Champions of Emerging Female Artists

During the past month, HamletHub has been presenting a series of engaging and empowering videos from LIFEWTR, a bottled water that uses every bottle to showcase new and emerging artists.

Right here in Connecticut, there is a nonprofit organization that shares the vision and mission of LIFEWTR. Enter The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

A champion of emerging artists since 1964, The Aldrich, located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, offers many programs to empower and encourage artists at all junctures of their careers. One such example is the Museum’s Portfolio Days which offer an opportunity for local art students to meet and engage with professionals from the highly esteemed art schools around the country including RISD, SVA, and Cooper Union, among many others.

We sat down with The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum’s curator, Amy Smith-Stewart, to learn more how the Museum supports emerging women artists.

The Aldrich has been championing emerging artists, particularly women artists, since its inception. Tell me about this. Have you propelled these artists to new heights? Who are some of these artists and where are they now?

The Aldrich has a longstanding commitment to exhibiting outstanding work by extraordinary women artists at significant junctures of their careers. In 1971, influential and trailblazing curator and critic Lucy Lippard, presented the historic Twenty Six Contemporary Women Artists exhibition at The Aldrich, which included major work by Alice Aycock, Mary Heilmann, Mary Miss, Dona Nelson, Howardena Pindell, Adrian Piper, and Jackie Winsor, to name a few.

During my four-year tenure at The Aldrich, I have organized fifteen solo exhibitions of women artists, which span commissions to surveys, and were mounted at important moments in their careers.

Significant figures:

The first survey since 1997 with one of the most significant sculptors to emerge in the late 1960s, Jackie Winsor; Mary Beth Edelson, one of the early leaders of the feminist art movement, her exhibition included a new commission; the first museum survey of artist Suzanne McClelland; and Ruth Root, her first solo museum exhibition.

On the rise:

Kate Gilmore, major site-specific commission of large-scale performance and sculpture; Virginia Overton, commissioned 13 site-engaged commissions and a video (while her exhibition was up at The Aldrich she opened an exhibition at The Whitney Museum of American Art); Anissa Mack, surveyed her ongoing project, The Fair, with all new work and a community engaged project (her exhibition here was just featured in The New York Times National Arts & Leisure), and Xaviera Simmons, my inaugural show at the Museum, which included the commission of the artist’s largest and longest durational performance to date (after her show at The Aldrich, a new work was created for The Modern Window at The Museum of Modern Art and she had a solo exhibition at The Kitchen).

Early/emerging first museum exhibitions:

Hayal Pozanti (after her show at The Aldrich she was included in group exhibitions with Public Art Fund and The Kitchen), Julia Rommel (after her show, her work was featured in the popular Phaidon series, Vitamin P, Vitamin P3: New Perspectives in Painting).

Have you heard of LIFEWTR? Do you know that they too are champions for female artists?

I recently learned of LIFEWTR through a colleague. As a curator, I have been compelled to champion the work of women artists who have been historically underrepresented. LIFEWTR shares a similar passion by giving emerging female artists the visibility and support they need early on to achieve the recognition they deserve.

Portfolio Days and Third Saturdays are some of the ways the Museum empowers and encourages younger artists. Why is this a focal point for the Museum?

We strive to support artists at every point along their career from aspiring students to globally recognized artists. For the ongoing monthly Third Saturdays, we waive the admission fee, making the Museum accessible to everyone. Our Portfolio Days offer a wonderful opportunity for students to meet and engage with professionals from highly esteemed art schools around the country including RISD, SVA, and Cooper Union, among many others. The Museum’s summer camp, Camp Aldrich, is another favorite. It introduces children not only to artists and art making strategies but also to museum culture.

Emerging female artists in the museum’s future?

I have many projects I am juggling right now. There is a large group exhibition I am co-curating with another artist, David Adamo. This show will include more female artists than male artists, some of whom of course are emerging including Genesis Belanger, Rosha Yaghmai, Sarah Peters, and Vanessa Safavi. We are also organizing the first museum exhibition with Jessi Reaves, which includes the commissioning of all-new work. Next year, I am working on the first museum exhibition on the East Coast with N. Dash. This too will include all new work and the publication will be her first museum catalogue. I’m also very proud to be organizing the first museum survey, spanning almost fifty years, of the work of trailblazing artist, scholar, curator, activist and author, Harmony Hammond.

Learn more about The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum here.

Watch this video from LIFEWTR and quench your thirst for artistic inspiration.

Learn more about LIFEWTR here.

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