Female representation in the arts has historically been bleak, and Wikipedia is partly to blame, according to the Art+Feminism organization.
Art+Feminism claims that less than 10 per cent of Wikipedia contributors identify as female. Why would this gender bias matter in an arts context? It speaks to the larger issue of marginalized voices being silenced in arts education and arts research.
Art history curricula have predominantly featured male artists. But as society shifts towards wider gender equality, it has become necessary for online resource material to reflect this.
One way to do this is through Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons — an event coming to Western University on Sept. 23.
Western MA in art history alumna Siân Evans, helped found Art+Feminism in 2014. The organization began as a group of friends wanting to improve accessibility to information about feminism. Today, Art+Feminism is known for hosting Edit-A-Thons around the world.
Evans is hosting Western's Edit-A-Thon at the Artlab Gallery. The event encourages students and faculty to edit and make insertions into Wikipedia for artists or feminist art movements that are under-represented.
“If it’s largely men and largely white men who are writing [Wikipedia], then a lot of people’s voices are left out,” says Evans.
ArtLab Gallery director, Susan Edelstein, explains that the event welcomes newcomers interested in learning more. There will be tables set up in the gallery, and Evans will be hosting an Edit-A-Thon "how-to" as well.
To Evans, feminism is always intersectional and the Edit-A-Thons (held around the world) attract individuals of all backgrounds and identities.
“To me, Art+Feminsim has never been just about women,” she says. “We see feminism as a framework for thinking about how to dismantle structures of oppression generally.”
As stated in a press release, the event “invite[s] people of all gender identities and expressions, particularly transgender and cisgender women, to address this absence by inserting Wikipedia entries on art and feminism.”
This idea of eradicating oppression via wiki reference material creates fertile ground from which feminist representation in the arts can grow.
Evans feels that university students in the arts — as well as across other disciplines — can demand more from their faculty to “collect works outside of the mainstream and focus coursework outside of traditional art history.”
In March 2017, Art+Feminism’s third annual Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon attracted 2,500 people participating at more than 175 events worldwide. Evans hopes that Western’s Edit-A-Thon will inspire students and faculty to further work towards closing the gender gap in the arts and to become regular contributors.
Western’s Edit-A-Thon will be hosted Sept. 23 from 12 to 5 p.m. in the ArtLab Gallery located in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre. Students interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit the event page for more information on how to prepare.