The National Museum of Women in Arts in Washington, D.C., will close ahead of a major restoration effort


On August 9, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC will close. This will come ahead of a major restoration of its historic building. The construction will begin on September 1 and will last for two years. During the closing time, the museum will feature virtual programs, events, and exhibitions.

The $ 66 million project which is overseen by Baltimore-based architecture firm Sandra Vicchio & Associates, represents the first major building renovation since 1987 and will result in an increase in gallery space, new space for educational and research programs, and improved infrastructure and storage facilities, and more. This renovation is the result of an assessment of the museum building carried out in 2015.

Since the building is a Classical Revival on the National Register of Historic Places, renovations to the roof, cornice, and other exterior elements of the museum will be carried out in accordance with the DC Heritage Office. Other restoration priorities include improving ADA visitor accessibility, creating an orientation gallery for the National Women`s Museum’s Great Hall, and upgrading wireless and sensor technologies in the galleries.

“Rodarte” exhibition installation view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.

The art director of The National Museum of Women in the Art Susan Fisher Sterling said the renovation would ensure the promotion of women artists and their contributions to art. According to her, that will grab the attention of the public and the defenders of tomorrow.

Architect Sandra Wicchio added in her post: “To protect the collection and enable The National Museum of Women in the Arts to educate and engage the world more effectively, we must redesign the building envelope, improve the performance of its systems and make better use of its interior space. Building restoration is all about how to make the museum a victorious future. ”

Museum dedicated to women’s creativity

Selections from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Photo by Lee Stalsworth

The National Museum of women in the Arts is the only museum of this kind in the whole world, in which everything is devoted only to women’s creativity and art. Some people probably wonder what is the difference between female and male art?

Visit the National Museum of Women in Art, and you will get an answer to this question. Whether there is a tinge of feminism in this museum is up to the visitors. But be that as it may, here you will not find works and works of art made by men, but you will be able to fully appreciate women’s works.

The National Museum of Women’s Art in Washington was founded by Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, in whose opinion the work of the female half of humanity is simply ignored. In order to correct this state of affairs, she opened a museum in 1987, in which amazingly beautiful paintings by artists from the Renaissance to the present are presented to the judgment of lovers of beauty.

The building of the museum, made in the style of the same Renaissance, is very interesting for visitors. It was erected back in 1907 as a Masonic temple. Then, in the 60s of the 20th century, a cinema was located here, and in the early 80s, it was designated for demolition.

It was at this time that the future founder of the museum bought it.  After restoration, the exhibition hall was decorated with plaster bas-reliefs on the ceiling, and the floors were paved with marble slabs.

Currently, the collection of the museum includes more than 4500 paintings, sculptures, works of decorative and applied art. The collection of paintings includes about 1000 canvases, including works by Lavinia Fontana, Clara Peters, Elisabeth Sirani, Rosalba Carrera, Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, Angelica Kaufman, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon.

Current Exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend

Mar 03 to Jun 2

Sonya Clark, Afro Abe II, 2012; Five-dollar bill and hand-embroidered thread, 4 x 6 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Sonya Y.S. Clark; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Textile and social artist Sonia Clark (born 1967) is known for her mixed work that addresses race and appearance, explores Blackness, and reconstructs history. This exhibition is the first overview of Clark’s 25-year career. It includes the artist’s famous sculptures made from black pocket combs, human hair, and thread, as well as works created from flags, currency, beads, cotton plants, pencils, books, and more.

Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood

Mar 03 to Aug 08, 2021

Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood, NMWA

Contemporary photography icon Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015) created compassionate and candid portraits of people outside the mainstream. Mark has captured the lives and stories of people, from street children in Seattle to circus performers in India.

She did it with empathy, humor, and candor. Through her camera lens, the photography artist overcame social barriers. Her goal was to protect neglected communities in the US, India, Mexico, the former Soviet Union, and other countries.

The National Museum of women in Arts exhibition Mary Ellen Mark: Maiden Existence explores Mark’s portrayal of girls and young women living in various circumstances around the world.

Julie Chen: True to Life

Oct 12, 2020, to Jun 30, 2021


Julie Chen, Wayfinding, 2019; Courtesy of the artist; © Julie Chen

Internationally acclaimed artist and educator Julie Chen creates elaborate books that challenge readers to do more than flip pages to uncover her poetic reflections. The exhibition at the National Museum of Women’s Art Julie Chen: True to Life will showcase more than a dozen fascinating works from the Californian’s 33-year career.

RECLAMATION: Recipes, Remedies, and Rituals

Jan 18 to Dec 31, 2021

Photo credit: Melani N. Douglass, NMWA

RECLAMATION: Recipes, Remedies, and Rituals is a new exhibition at the National Women’s Museum featuring nine interdisciplinary artists. Conceived as a virtual experience that re-contextualizes the traditional role of women in nourishing and healing, RECLAMATION will also include content presented by the public, intertwined with the work of artists.

Selections from the Collection

Aug 01, 2020, to Aug 08, 2021

Yael Bartana, What if Women Ruled the World, 2016; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase, Belinda de Gaudemar Acquisition Fund, with additional support from the Members’ Acquisition Fund; © Yael Bartana; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Excerpts from the collection are presented in thematic groups. They highlight the links between historical and contemporary art, as well as ideas explored by women around the world and over time. Female artists have proven themselves persistent and successful, working in a system that tried to suppress them and rebelling against it.

Five Ways to Support Women Artists from Susan Fisher Sterling the director of The National Museum of Women in the Arts

NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling

Most people cannot open their own gallery or their own museum, as the founder of the museum, Wilhelmina Holladay, did. But the director of the women’s museum says she believes in mass methods, democracy and knows that there are little things that anyone can do.

Susan Fisher Sterling is convinced that small actions lead to big changes. Here are five recommendations the director of The National Museum of Women in the Arts makes.

  1. When you see that the exhibitions are unequal, contact a gallery or museum and tell them that they need to show more work by women artists – this is important. Especially in contemporary art, women should make up at least 50 percent of the exhibitors.
  2. Support women artists and institutions that exhibit their work. Draw attention to places that are working towards gender equality. Encyclopedic museums are not always able to demonstrate gender equality in their collections. This usually happens due to historical restrictions on female artists. But in their exhibition program, they absolutely can achieve gender equality. They can also shape future collections so that women get their due.
  3. Be more active. If you think someone is doing well in an exhibition, museum, or gallery, be sure to tell people about it. If there are a lot of women at the art fair and the sales are good, be sure to mention this in art newspapers and magazines. The director of the women’s museum believes that people who have funds should buy works of art created by women. Susan Fisher Sterling also believes that people need to advocate for the interests of other collectors and auction houses so that women’s art purchases are not just the exception, but the rule.
  4. The director of the women’s museum believes that people should educate themselves. People should read or contact social media that discusses this issue, be it, Jerry Saltz of New York Magazine, for example, Robert Smith of The New York Times, or Hyperallergic. There are many ways to learn more about the great women artists who work not only today but from the past, including on the National Women’s Museum’s website.
  5. The last thing the NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling thinks is key: boys and girls should be taught alike. She thinks the art world and all walks of life will be different. But it will take a very long time.



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