Show highlights five nominees for biennial exhibition at the Women’s Museum in Washington, DC
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Institute of Art, in partnership with the Ohio Advisory Group of
the National Museum of Women in the Arts, presents Women to Watch – Ohio, an exhibition
featuring five accomplished Ohio women artists who are pushing the boundaries of
contemporary art in ceramics, tapestry, painting and drawing, photography, installation,
printmaking, and mixed media.
The featured artists are CIA graduates Christi Birchfield (Class of 2006) and Lauren Yeager
(Class of 2009); and Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Mimi Kato, and Eva Kwong.
According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), 51% of visual artists today
are women, yet only 5% of work on display in US museums is by women, and work by women
makes up only 5% of major permanent collections in the US and Europe. And according to a
research paper, “The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships,” published by the Association
of Art Museum Directors, women hold just 24% of art museum director positions at museums
with budgets over $15 million and earn 71¢ for every dollar earned by male directors.
Women to Watch – Ohio shines a light on these disparities, while showcasing five artists who
come from across the country and around the world but now call Northeast Ohio home.
The exhibition was initiated by Barbara Richter and Harriet Warm who are founders and cochairs
of the Ohio Advisory Group (OAG) of NMWA. This group of influential Ohio women
convened to advance the museum’s mission by promoting Ohio women artists and creating
exhibition opportunities both locally and at the Women’s Museum in Washington, DC.
On behalf of the OAG, Richter and Warm tapped curators Reto Thüring, of the Cleveland
Museum of Art, and Rose Bouthillier, of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, to identify
deserving, underrepresented artists according to criteria presented by NMWA. Bruce
Checefsky, Director of CIA’s Reinberger Galleries, selected the works for Women to Watch-
Ohio and curated the exhibition with the assistance of Jen Rokoski, a graduate level intern who
was recruited by the OAG from the Art History and Museum Studies program at Case Western
“We’re thrilled about the collaborative nature of this exhibition,” said Richter. “It is wonderful to
see so many prominent arts institutions in Cleveland working together to showcase Women to
Watch – Ohio.” Warm added, “The association with NMWA and the international Women to
Watch exhibition in Washington, DC brings additional visibility and prestige to the project.”
All five artists in Women to Watch – Ohio were nominees for Organic Matters – Women to
Watch 2015, which opens on June 5, 2015 at NMWA in Washington D.C. Curators from the
museum chose Kato to participate in that international show, which recurs on a biennial basis.
It is the first time that an Ohio-based artist will be represented. Kato, who works in
photomontage, is a 2013 recipient of a Creative Workforce Fellowship from the Community
Partnership for Arts and Culture.
Women to Watch – Ohio is the last major exhibition scheduled for the Reinberger Galleries in
CIA’s George Gund Building on East Boulevard. The college is vacating that building as it
unifies its campus on Euclid Avenue with the recent completion of a new George Gund
Building adjoined to its historic Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts. The East
Boulevard building is being sold to Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland
Museum of Art.
“We’re organizing this exhibition because women have been under recognized in exhibitions in
this region and nationally, and this is an important effort to show the significance of their
contributions,” Reinberger Galleries Director Checefsky said. “These particular women artists
represent the very best artists in the region and have reputations that extend nationally and
CIA President Grafton Nunes echoed that sentiment. “Cleveland Institute of Art was founded in
1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women and has educated generations of
accomplished women artists since then,” he said. “It is particularly fitting that CIA is cosponsoring
this exhibition, which showcases five women artists, highlights the hurdles that
women artists face, and precedes a significant international exhibition at the National Museum
of Women in the Arts in Washington."
Women to Watch – Ohio opens to the public with a reception in CIA’s Reinberger Galleries on
Thursday, April 2, from 6-8 pm. As part of CIA's Lunch On Fridays series, the featured artists
will participate in a public panel discussion on women in the arts on Friday, April 10, 2015, at
12:15pm in Aitken Auditorium in the Gund Building. Rokoski will moderate the forum.
According to Rokoski, the curatorial intern, Kato’s creates performative photomontages, which
feature her image embedded into traditional yet modernized Japanese landscapes. Yeager’s
mixed media installations of everyday objects (like pencils and construction cones) function as
urban taxonomy, organizing seemingly banal objects and systems into something more
interesting and often absurd. Birchfield’s printmaking looks to both the natural and mechanical
world in efforts to create her own nature morte that is anything but lifeless. Inspired by both
macrocosmic and microcosmic environments, Kwong’s ceramic sculptures are direct
manifestations of the natural world. Jónsson’s textile-formed paintings recall the landscape of
her native Iceland.
NMWA and the Ohio Advisory Group
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, based in Washington, DC, is the only museum
dedicated to celebrating women artists through exhibitions, acquisitions, educational initiatives
and archival research. (Read more at nmwa.org.) The Ohio Advisory Group of NMWA provides
leadership, guidance, and resources in support of the museum's mission and works to elevate
the profile of accomplished women artists from Ohio. The founding members of the Ohio
Advisory Group are distinguished women leaders in Ohio who share a passion for art and/or
advocacy for women. In addition to founders and co-chairs Richter and Warm, members
include Victoria Bell, Diane DeGrazia, Marilena Disilvio, Diane Downing, Helen Forbes Fields,
Susan Goldberg, Sally Gries, Shannon Lundeen, Ellen Stirn Mavec, Sharon Milligan, Kristin
Morris, Sandra Pianalto, Barbara Robinson, Catherine Scallen, and Eliza Wing.
Women to Watch - Ohio is the final installment in CIA’s year-long series, Community Works:
Artist as Social Agent. The series focused on socially engaged art.
Sponsorship for Women to Watch - Ohio was provided by Huntington Bank and media partner,
ideastream, which includes WVIZ/PBS, 90.3 WCPN, and WCLV 104.9. Additional funding was
provided by the Ruby Shoes Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
Founded in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art is an accredited, independent college of art and design
offering 15 majors in studio art, digital art, craft disciplines, and design. CIA extends its programming to
the public through gallery exhibitions; lectures; a robust continuing education program; and the
Cinematheque, a year-round art and independent film program. CIA’s public programming is supported
in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. For
more information visit www.cia.edu.