A new Riverside space for women artists
FemArt Gallery Executive Director and founder Kim Miller was inspired to create a space for women artists while she was finishing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Her art education had made her acutely aware of the strong bias toward male artists throughout history. She sent out a call to local women artists she knew and two of them joined her in creating a nonprofit that would support women artists through exhibition opportunities, educational programs, and community outreach designed to elevate their work.
FemArt held its first exhibition in 2017, with 17 participating artists. In 2020 the gallery held an exhibit of a hundred pieces created by 47 women artists and cocurated a women’s art exhibition at the Haskell Gallery in Jacksonville International Airport. During the COVID-19 pandemic, FemArt developed a virtual art exhibition that has exhibited the work of 35 women from all over the world.
The gallery’s new location will help FemArt cultivate more opportunities and welcome even more women artists than its already large roster of 69 members. The new gallery and education space is housed within The Nest CoWorking, located on the bustling strip of Riverside Avenue between the Riverside YMCA and Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Housed in a former tractor manufacturing building, there are interesting architectural features that have been incorporated into the space. Local artist Deborah Lightfield describes the facility as “beautiful and architecturally fabulous” adding that “the person who designed the space is a woman, the landlord is a woman, the director and founder is a woman, and the board is made up of women.”
Miller has a big vision for FemArt, designed to help women artists develop their art and be recognized and valued in society. She hopes to offer childcare in the building, for instance, “so that a woman does not have to choose between a career and role as a mother any more than a man needs to choose between fatherhood and career.” Miller also hopes to provide in-house art therapy “for those women who have been traumatized by sexual assault or have mental health concerns that may keep them from being their most creative selves.” They also host several regular art classes for all ages, with plans to expand offerings.
FemArt’s open house and grand opening this spring officially introduced the gallery and its members’ artwork to its new neighborhood. This opening event exhibited 69 artists, or as Miller puts it, 69 “women’s visual voices.” Miller adds that with so many women behind it, the new space “is set to make a big impact on our cultural scene here in Jacksonville.”
FemArt Gallery, Inc., 476 Riverside Ave., (904) 625-7183, www.femartgallery.org