Center/Gallery thrived in the heyday of the Women’s Art Movement. Most active from 1977 through 1984, it was the NC Triangle’s response to feminist art, a center for creative energy, public statement, and enthusiastic expression of women’s experience.
Women artists and community art lovers embraced Center/Gallery. It was a place where women could take their ideas and images seriously. Even though it no longer has a physical space, many of the group of supportive peers who began their early artwork and careers there have kept the spirit of the space alive. The founding mothers were Carol Adamec, Kaola Allen, Claire Cooperstein, Stephanie Cote, Carla House, Mary Fagan, Isabel Levitt, Nina Saratov, Beatrice Schall, Hollie Taylor, Sue Trent, Pat Zaborowski and Jo Wright Whitten.
Center/Gallery is gathering once again to celebrate the focus and trajectory it gave to our art, our careers, and our lives.
A Short History
Center/Gallery was important enough to appear in major art history texts on the era, especially The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970’s, History and Impact by Norma Broude and Mary Garrard. This brief history below is adapted from a statement originally written by members in 1981.
In the spring of 1977, a group of 30-40 women—a mixture of professional artists, art teachers, writers, art historians, freelance artists, homemaker artists, student artists, and art enthusiasts—began meeting once a week to see slides of each others’ artwork, to share ideas and techniques, and to discuss art issues and women’s art issues. Out of these informal gatherings the need to establish a “center” to perpetuate such exchanges and the desire to acquire a “gallery” to make artistic efforts and thoughts available to the community audience became apparent. The summer of 1977 was spent in long hours of labor and discussion, and Center/Gallery was born: a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and promoting the fine arts for the benefit of artists and community.
Although Center/Gallery’s initial membership was small, its energy and vitality was great, and Center/Gallery worked diligently to fulfill its chartered purpose. Through the use of members’ homes and community places, Center/Gallery began planning and implementing programs and exhibits.
In November of 1978, Center/Gallery acquired a small two-room space on Ransom Street in Chapel Hill as its first “home” where it increased its activities, its community contact, and its membership.
The group offered several fine public programs there thanks to the financial support of growing membership and donations by supportive contributors. However, within a year Center/Gallery had outgrown this space. Grants from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Grassroots Program of the North Carolina Arts Council in the summer of 1979 allowed the group to move to 118A Main Street in Carrboro, NC (a town immediately adjacent to Chapel Hill.) This space included one large gallery, a small gallery, and an office. It was more visible to the community and more useful as an exhibition space.
The membership continued to grow, and the size of the group enabled Center/Gallery to hang twelve exhibits a year in its own space and to maintain regular weekend gallery hours with volunteer staffing by the members. Due to the quality of art produced by its members, Center/Gallery received many invitations for group exhibits: Guilford College, Horace Williams House, High Point Arts council, Winthrop College, Washington Women’s Art Center, East Carolina University, Appalachian State University, and others.
Center/Gallery’s programs included:
- Monthly Idea/Image discussion with the exhibiting artists
- Discussion with Miriam Shapiro, feminist artist, writer, lecturer, and co-founder of the Feminist Arts institute in New York.
- Question and answer discussion with Amy Simon, fine arts consultant in New York
- Slide lecture/presentation on the “Arts of China” and “European Clay Works” by Sally Prange, Chapel Hill ceramacist and Center/Gallery member
- Discussion and slide show with Nancy Spero, New York artist
- Lecture and slide presentation of Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” exhibit in San Francisco, given by Blue Greenberg, art historian, columnist of the Durham Morning Herald, and Center/Gallery member.
- Intensive journaling workshop led by Barbara Kazanis using Ira Progoff’s journal-writing techniques
- Slide/lecture, “Under Cover with Eros” with Dr. Stephen Mansbach, Assistant Professor of Art History at University of North Carolina
In addition to these special events, Center/Gallery regularly offered programs and workshops in photocopy art, ceramics, watercolor, papermaking, and other media and techniques. Center/Gallery presented exhibitions through 1984 in both its own space and elsewhere.