IU Eskenazi Museum of Art launches a research project celebrating the contributions of women artists
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IU Eskenazi Museum of Art launches a research project celebrating the contributions of women artists
The homepage of A Space of Their Own invites users to explore artists, artworks, and essays about women artists.

BLOOMINGTON, IN.- The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University announced the launch of A Space of Their Own, a database focused on the work of women artists, which is made possible by the Jane Fortune Fund for Virtual Advancement of Women Artists and is supported in part by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

In August 2018, the museum began placing its collections online to allow people around the world to explore the breadth of the museum’s holdings and use them for research, teaching, and more. This new portal features up-to-date information about women artists represented in the museum’s own collection, as well as other museums and private collections around the world. Timelines, lists of works, biographies, and high-quality images illustrate the range of individual artists’ contributions to the history of art—focusing a spotlight on an often forgotten, but important piece of the art historical puzzle.

The initial launch highlights the research efforts of Eskenazi Museum of Art Director Emerita Adelheid “Heidi” Gealt, whose focus on international women artists from the 1500s to 1800s also reflects the origins of the project in the late philanthropist Jane Fortune’s non-profit initiative, Advancing Women Artists. A champion of the project from the onset, Gealt worked with graduate students to create individual records for the featured artists, gather images, and write biographical essays and timelines that highlight the importance of these artists’ contributions.

A Space of Their Own is a comprehensive online resource that documents the lives and careers of women artists. Fully integrated into the curatorial departments of the museum, the site features details about the artists’ training, careers, important works, and circles of influence. Through the stewardship of Assistant Curator of European and American Art Galina Olmsted, who serves as Managing Editor of the project, A Space of Their Own is poised to become a comprehensive resource of information on female painters, printmakers, and sculptors active around the world and across time. Scholars and students will be invited to contribute to the database through feature essays on particular artists, works, or related themes, as well as individual artist records, with new content added as additional research comes to light.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to work closely with Heidi Gealt on the launch of this resource, making accessible the research on women artists that has been her focus for so long,” said Olmsted. “In the years ahead, A Space of Their Own will grow to include women artists working across the centuries and continents, reaching a wide audience and making tangible our institutional commitment to the advancement of a more complete record of women’s contributions to the arts.”

In 2020, the Eskenazi Museum of Art launched a five-year strategic plan to implement an authentic and lasting culture of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. The museum is committed to acquiring work by women and artists of color to diversity its holdings and provide opportunities for expanded understanding of the broader art historical canon through the study of original works of art. Over the past year, the museum has added more than 160 such works to its collection. The larger A Space of Their Own project includes related exhibition and educational programming that will expand engagement with the work of women artists included in the museum’s collection.

“A Space of Their Own realizes Jane Fortune’s commitment to advancing understanding of women’s role in the history of art. The museum is excited to continue growing this important resource and furthering its reach through acquisitions, exhibitions, and programming that will offer students direct engagement with original works of art by women. I thank Director Emerita Heidi Gealt, whose research made this initial launch possible. I am grateful that Jane Fortune chose our museum as the steward of her life’s work to shine a light on women artists, and I also extend my sincere thanks to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for their support of this important project,” said David A. Brenneman, Wilma E. Kelley Director, Eskenazi Museum of Art.

In 2019, the museum announced an estate gift with an estimated value of approximately $4 million from the late Indiana philanthropist Jane Fortune, who was a passionate advocate for women in the arts and founder of the Florence, Italy–based nonprofit Advancing Women Artists, which was dedicated to researching, restoring, and exhibiting artwork by women artists. Fortune’s gift included a collection of 61 works of fine art as well as funds to establish the Dr. Jane Fortune Endowment for Women Artists and the Dr. Jane Fortune Fund for Virtual Advancement of Women Artists. The Eskenazi Museum of Art also recognized Fortune’s generosity by naming its first-floor gallery of American and European Art from Medieval to 1900 the “Jane Fortune Gallery.” Born and raised in Indianapolis, Fortune was an author, art historian, art collector, philanthropist, and cultural editor. Her commitment to supporting female artists has been recognized around the world.

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