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Washington Women’s Arts Center Records

Identifier: 004

Scope and Contents

The collection contains administrative files including correspondence, board meeting minutes, annual reports, contracts, insurance policies, and grant files. The records document the Center's history and membership through guest books, membership directories, and documentation of the 1972 Women's Conference in the Visual Arts. The collection includes the Center's journal Womensphere and issues of its newsletter. Additionally, the collection contains information on the activities of the Center such as exhibits, exhibition lists, artist resumes, printed programs, and publicity materials; as well as audio and video recordings, slides, and photographs of events and exhibits. Also included are budgets, receipts, ledgers, financial statements, deposit sheets, and cash books.


  • Creation: 1972-1988


Language of Materials



Permission must be obtained from the artist to reproduce any images.

Biographical / Historical

The creation of the Washington Women’s Arts Center was inspired by The Conference of Women in the Visual Arts held April 20-22, 1972 at the Corcoran Gallery; and Womansphere, an arts festival held at Glen Echo Park, Maryland in 1974. The Conference attracted significant women artists from around the country, including Elaine deKooning, Katherine Anne Porter, Lois M. Jones, and Judy Chicago. The conference steering committee consisted of Mary Beth Edelson, Cynthia Bickley-Green, Barbara Frank, Enid Sandford, Susan Sollins, Josephine Withers, and Yvonne Wulf. Participants were concerned about the presentation and involvement of so few women artists in the Corcoran's Biennial Exhibition and other exhibitions at major American art galleries. As a result of these events, local women who attended began discussing and planning for a D.C. women’s arts center.

The Center was established in 1975 to provide a place for D.C. women to show their work, improve their artistic skills, and network. The original founders were Barbara Frank, Katherine Butler, Janis Goodman, Sarah Hyde, and Ann Slayton-Leffler. The site of the first Center was a basement space at 1821 Q Street, NW. The Center sponsored a monthly series of lectures and published the journal, Womansphere. The Center also conducted workshops, held literary readings, live performances, and gallery talks. The primary concentration of the Center was sponsoring juried exhibits of local women artists. In 1983 the Center moved to the Lansburgh Cultural Center located on E Street between 7th and 8th Streets, NW. In 1986 the Center changed its name to the New Arts Center and relocated to the Takoma Park neighborhood. With the new name and in an effort to increase membership, the Center began allowing male artists to join. Despite this change the Center continued to pay homage to its femist past. Financial issues force the Center to dissolve in December of 1988.


52 Linear feet

117 Boxes


Series 1: Historical Materials, 1972-1979 (1 linear ft.) This series contains correspondence and financial documents relating to the 1972 Women's Conference in the Visual Arts. The series also contains correspondence and items on the Center’s first location, publicity, proposals, and studies to establish the Center.

Series 2: Board of Directors, 1974-87 (1.75 linear ft.) This series contains the Center's Board of Directors meeting minutes, annual reports, incorporation papers, by-laws, and projected budgets from 1978 through 1987.

Series 3: Office Files, 1976-1986 (3.75 linear ft.) This series contains correspondence, memoranda, brochures, press releases, and reports on government and foundation grants, publicity, elections, Center workshops, the Lansburgh Center move, and the Edith C. Blum lecture series.

Series 4: Financial Records, 1975-1978 (13.5 linear ft.) This series contains correspondence, budgets, ledgers, receipts, insurance policies, financial statements, gallery cash daybook, and other financial information. Also included are grant materials from the D.C. Government and the National Education Association.

Series 5: Membership and Guest books, 1977-1987 (1.25 linear ft.) This series contains records on individuals who supported and attended the Center's activities, including membership directories, guest books for Center events, an address book (1980), card index of active members (1987), and cards index of inactive members (1988).

Series 6: Newsletters, 1975-1981 (2.5 linear ft.) This series contains copies of the Center's newsletter "WWAC News."

Series 7: Exhibitions Files, 1975-1988 (22.5 linear ft.) This series contains materials, which document the preparation and publicity for exhibitions at the Center. Materials are arranged under three subseries.

Subseries 1: Office files, 1975-1988 (5.5 linear ft.) This series contains exhibition correspondence, handwritten lists, contracts, clippings, publicity, some photographs, and resumes.

Subseries 2: Notebooks, 1977-1985 (14.5 linear ft.) This series contains loose-leaf notebooks of documentation on exhibits. The notebooks contain photographs, correspondence, resumes, lists of items in exhibitions, slides, and clippings from the publications.

Subseries 3: Exhibition catalogs and programs, 1976-1987 (3 linear ft.) This series contains exhibit catalogs and programs from the Center and other institutions. Series 8: Audiovisual, 1972-1989 (.5 linear ft.) This series contains slides, videocassettes, audiocassettes, and photographs of exhibits, performances, and other events at the Center.

Series 9: Memorabilia, undated (.25 linear ft.) This series contains a textile banner and framed items from the Center's offices as well as miscellaneous publications from other arts organizations.

Custodial History

The records were donated in 1989 by Marcia Pemberton and Pamela Brown, members of the Washington Women’s Arts Center.

Processing Information

General processing procedures included the discarding of duplicates, unnecessary binders, and routine transmittals. Oversized documents and photographs were removed from their assigned series and placed in separate containers. Separation sheets were added to original folders to indicate the new location of removed records. Preservation copying of newspaper clippings was performed whenever feasible. Unless noted, records were arranged in chronological order with undated records appearing at the end of the folder.

Washington Women’s Arts Center
An inventory of Washington Women’s Arts Center at DC Public Library
Finding aid prepared by Leroy Graham, 1990 and Fay Haskins, 1998.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001