Laura Gardner, Ph.D.


Women’s Leadership


The purpose of this study is to explore contemporary Black women visual artists’ experiences in the arts. Specific experiences studied include: finding support, balancing family responsibilities, and overcoming gender and race barriers. Though there are numerous articles on Black women’s artwork (e.g., Edwards, 2015; Murray, 2014; Wickham, 2015), there are few about their lived experiences, in their own words. To address this gap, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Black women visual artists from the southeast United States. Despite its focus on a particular group, the study speaks to diverse audiences about surmounting challenges in life and work.

Two interviews have been conducted so far, and preliminary results show common themes. These themes include family support for art-making and family participation in art-making, mentorship and helpful connections with other Black professionals, strategic navigation around gender and race barriers, culture as an important theme in their work, and an integrated relationship between their academic professions and their artistic work. These results are clearly not conclusive nor generalizable, but may provide leads for future investigation. The results might also provide helpful information and guidance to emerging Black women artists. Both artists interviewed affirmed the importance of learning from more experienced artists, and this study can serve that end.