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'Woman Kind' fine art exhibition highlights female artists, helps non-profits

Vanessa Finney
Southern Oregon artist Beca Blake discusses current exhibit 'Woman Kind.'

Phoenix-based artist Beca Blake is part of a team known as Southern Oregon Celebrating Women. Together, they've produced a local exhibit to celebrate female artists.

For her series The Creative Way, JPR’s Vanessa Finney spoke with Blake about some of the artists featured at the exhibit, and how it’s benefiting the community with fundraisers for local nonprofits. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation.

Vanessa Finney: Beca, now that we’ve established the landscape of the fine-arts world, where female artists are dramatically underrepresented, tell us more about how you’re addressing that with the Woman Kind show - which not only features the work of 12 women, it’s been raising funds for several local nonprofits that support women and girls.

Beca Blake: The Woman Kind exhibition is being held at Jack Langford art gallery. Jack Langford is renowned sculptor here in our region, and he is the only foundry within hundreds of miles from other ones in Southern Oregon. I approached him about having a show, my woman-centric art show, and then I was offered the opportunity at Central Art Gallery and Jack and I said, "Well, why don't we have a group show after my solo show in Medford." So that's how it started. We initially had six artists that we identified from his gallery and his network and a few from my network.

Then I was interested in combining efforts with Community Works, which is a nonprofit. They have this wonderful program called a heartwarming party, where a host can hold the party in a venue, and they invite guests, and they ask guests to bring gifts and donations from items on the wish list on the community works website. It's a fundraiser to collect items for the shelter. And in return, the representative from Community Works will offer a presentation to help educate the community about the work that they do and what some of these residents go through on a daily basis.

So from that initial intention that we set the outreach to the community, and people would hear about it, and they just want to participate and be a part of it and nearly tripled in size from our original goal. We now have 12 artists total that are participating. We have four nonprofits, we have a couple private events, and we have a few for-profit sponsors. Some of them are women-owned businesses, and all the businesses sponsoring are in support of women.

VF: That's fantastic. I see your background in nonprofit management and your fine arts degree coming all together in this really productive way. You probably can't name all 12, but give us just a few highlights of artists that are part of this Woman Kind exhibit at the Jack Langford gallery.

BB: We have just this incredible range of artists working in different mediums. We have Isabel Rozier Alzado. She's an incredible French painter. And she also gives French lessons.

VF: One-stop shop for culture!

BB: Yes! We have Allison Barnes, another incredible artist who works with conceptual photography. And we have Kat McIver, who is a PhD in therapeutic arts, she leads groups and therapeutic ceramics. We have Alexis Mixter, who is phenomenal in her work using a tool that burns into wood. And we have Inger Nova Jorgensen, who's a fantastic sculptor and painter, if you haven't seen her work, you just really have to experience it, it's phenomenal. And Victoria Christian, who not only is a phenomenal painter, she also has compiled a fantastic book called Feminine Mysticism in the Arts.

VF: It's so neat to hear you talk about the importance of mentorship - and we're also hearing the importance of scholarship and the arts, which I don't think everybody knows goes into it. These women, yourself included, aren't just making pretty pictures; they're creating really thought-provoking art and they're researching for themselves how it fits in the context of art historically - society, historically.

BB: Right. Yes, art is a form of communication.

VF: Indeed. Well - Beca Blake, thanks for telling us about the Woman Kind exhibition, and best of luck with all your events.

BB: Thank you. This has been fantastic. Enjoyed it.

This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Vanessa Finney hosts All Things Considered on JPR and produces My Better Half, a podcast and Jefferson Exchange segment that explores how people are thriving in the second half of their lives.