by Netanel Saso
As a VAR fellow, one of my goals is to meet creative entrepreneurs and find out how they started their brands in order to gain knowledge that will help me start my own brand down the line. The team at VAR recently sat down with the founder of Women of Culture named Alexandra Harper (check out our Q&A with Harper here). Not only did we sit down with the founder, but I got to attend two of her events myself, and can’t wait for you to hear about them.
Alexandra started her career in marketing and then transitioned into graphic design, and is now the founder of Women of Culture. As sitting behind a computer is much different than the organization she started, she was able to use her background in both fields to help her design and get the word out about her organization in November of 2015. Women of Culture grew out of a necessity to share a passion and love for art with other people. Alexandra went to an all girls boarding school, and realized that she started to “miss the amazing comradery that you get when you spend time in a community of women”. Another push that made Alexandra start her own organization was when she would ask her friends to go with her to an art event, but instead they would rather go to a bar. This is a common issue that you find in America, as people attend events because it is just something to do rather than something to be passionate about while doing. At that point, she started researching to see if anyone started an organization that was solely for women to experience the arts, and noticed that there were none out there. Once she listed her first event up on Meetup, she was able to get the attention of many women across New York City and realize, that her passion for helping people experience the arts, especially those who might not go out to events alone, would be possible!
As of today, Women of Culture hosts open panel discussions with artists and creative entrepreneurs, as well as going out to experience museum and gallery tours, and theater and dance performances within the city. Though Women of Culture is only for women, Alexandra has been thinking of ways to incorporate men into future events. As of right now, men are able to come to open panel discussions. While the events are very affordable, my favorite part is that you do not have to be working in the arts to attend, in fact, you can have little to no experience with an art form, and be welcomed into the organization! This is really important because in our society today, many people form an initial fear before entering a gallery space. This organization helps you overcome that fear as you are able to experience and talk about those fears with like minded individuals in a gallery setting. Not only does this organization help you network and make lifelong friends, but it helps you get out of your comfort zone, as it exposes you to something you might have never known you would love!
After going to these two events, I can wholeheartedly say that Women of Culture is one of the best meet up organizations I have ever been to. I noticed that it is for all ages, and is a great way to have fun yet still acquire educational information after a long work day, or a long day of college or high school classes. As most meetup organizations meet on weekends, the fact that events are offered during the week is quite special as well. Though it is still growing, I have met different people at each event, and noticed that everyone who attends is very excited to be there and learn, which truly makes it an engaging and memorable experience. I already made a friend at one of the events that I can’t wait to keep in touch with! Now what might be the absolute best part of this organization, is how Alexandra focuses on “building patronage for the arts and elevating arts in the society as a whole”. The first event that I went on was a lower east side gallery tour that was given by Merrily Kerr, and the second event I went to was an open panel discussion with Kristina Adduci, Holly Hager and Beckie Warren which focused on their startup companies within the arts. By providing a space and allowing artists and women to speak, Alexandra not only provides a space for women to gain knowledge, but provides a space for women to share what they have learned as well. One of her main goals for the new year is to connect with more artists and allow them to speak at her future events too!
The lower east side gallery tour that I went on was very inspiring to me because I realized that I was experiencing most of the galleries for the first time along with the women that were there as well. The tour guide Merrily Kerr structured the tour by giving us information about the history of the gallery we would be going into, the history of the artist or the artwork we would see, and a few rem
arks on how she felt about the work, as well as questions that would allow the group to have conversations after we split up to walk around each gallery space for ourselves. This was a great structure as there was never a moment of feeling as though the tour guide was overpowering us or telling us what to do or how to feel about an artist. As a student at university, I feel that in class critiques, there are always moments where people do not know how to actually critique work. Women of Culture is a great way to get out there and learn or start to feel comfortable actually trying out critiquing work, or even starting to learn what kind of artwork or theater or dance you are most interested in.
The open panel discussion that I went to was one of the most captivating open panel discussions that I have been to yet! When I first arrived, I entered a house that was also a new digital media gallery. The event was inviting because we were literally in someone’s house, and got to talk before the event even started. Once the event started, I quickly started to feel how much emotion was flooding throughout the room. All three speakers created separate companies embedded in helping artists, and sharing their passion for art. Beckie Warren started Girl Sees Art, which is a blog on instagram that exposes people of all backgrounds to many different kinds of artwork. Not only does Beckie hold this account, but she also curates shows. Kristina Adduci started Art Zealous which is a media and news company that highlights the importance of the arts. Lastly, Holly Hager created Curatious which is a website that allows people of all backgrounds to respond to images of work and write what they think about it, but also see how others react to a work. Her goal is to have the ability to let artists of any skill level to upload their work and receive reactions to the work as well. Not only do these three women juggle their own businesses, but they gather together every month to help one women who might be unnoticed in the art world yet, or might only have a few pieces of art, and do a studio visit with them as well as highlight them on their websites. As I was listening to these women speak, I realized how much passion they had, and how important it is for people to hear their stories. Holly Hager even cried at one point when describing what art means to her. This event was an absolute reminder as to why I love art, as well as how there is still so much that needs to be resolved within the art world as well.
Overall, I highly recommend going to one of the Women of Culture events, and supporting a woman who gives artists and entrepreneurs a chance to share their story. I might even see you at one of the next events!