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Forgotten Female Artists Get Rediscovered

A non-profit is bringing their works out of storage and out of the shadows.

How cool is this project? Advancing Women Artists (AWA) is a non-profit that’s “committed to identifying, restoring and exhibiting artwork by women in Florence’s museum storage.” Yes, the Italian town that is home to Michelangelo’s David, Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and more, has a number of works by female artists quite literally gathering dust, out of sight from the millions of tourists who stream through the city every year.

Jane Fortune, founder of AWA, has set out to remedy the situation. Over the centuries, the female artists and their paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings were forgotten, and they became invisible, as has happened to so many women.

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Bringing Art to a New Audience

But now, AWA is spearheading A Space of Their Own, an illustrated online database of over 600 global female artists who worked between 15th and 19th centuries. This terrific use of tech could debut as soon as this fall.

Restoration is underway on many of the works (and worth noting, many art restorers in Florence are female), getting them ready to greet a new digital audience. The female artists represented were often self-taught as they were not allowed to study in the way men were, and they were often unable to fully pursue their talent because of the demands of being a wife and mother. What’s more, their professional lives were stagnated by the fact that women were not allowed to issue invoices, so even if someone wanted to pay them for, say, a drawing, they had no way to officially seek and receive the funds.

Is steam coming out of your ears about the centuries of oppression? Us, too. But here’s a wonderful way you can be part of the effort to appreciate and share these works. AWA has a program that allows anyone, anywhere to be an Art Angel by donating to help promote and preserve these once-hidden expressions of female talent. Take a look here for more details.

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By Janet Siroto


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