WoCA projects, building communities through exhibitioning: Curating and spaces for women artists of color
In this dissertation the researcher examines the implications of and strategies for curating exhibitions that feature the works of women of color (WoC) artists. In this study the researcher explores the ways in which viewers interpret exhibitions by the non-profit arts organization, WoCA Projects, an alternative curatorial initiative in Fort Worth, Texas, that highlights the contributions of WoC and underrepresented artists. Responses of visitors to exhibitions at WoCA Projects were evaluated based on on-site and internet surveys. The researcher also reflects on her own womanist approaches to curating WoC artists that are informed by her artist-curator-Women’s Studies scholar identities and compares her womanist approaches to the work of nine curators in Texas, who reflect on their curatorial practice through open-ended interviews.
Throughout this dissertation the researcher discusses the implications of womanist approaches to curatorial practice as methods for incorporating more cultural equity within art institutions. New approaches like womanism were proposed for curators to create art spaces where both WoC artists and communities of color feel welcomed. This dissertation provides an opportunity to consider how the field of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) can expand the ways in which art exhibitions can be used as platforms for social transformation on behalf of WoC artists and diverse communities. While feminist art and feminist exhibitions have long been the primary methods and approaches used within the field of WGS for engaging with gender within art practice and art history, the researcher proposes the use of social justice perspectives like womanism and women of color feminism as more appropriate frameworks for addressing racial and gender injustices both within the art world and local communities. The researcher also explores ways in which curators could champion cultural equity for WoC artists beyond womanism and how other curators throughout the state of Texas are addressing the issue.