Wilhemina Cole and Wallace F. Holladay fortuitously began collecting art in the 1960s, just as scholars and art historians were discovering the realities of our rich and varied cultural heritage. At the time, women artists had limited representation in museum collections and major art exhibitions. The Holladays committed themselves over twenty years to assembling a body of distinguished work executed by women. This became the seed of the collection in what was to become the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a private, non-profit museum, incorporated in 1981.
The museum is located in a 70,000 square foot Washington landmark near the White House–formerly a Masonic Temple. In the nearly thirty years since its opening, NMWA has presented hundreds of ground-breaking shows featuring the work of Camille Claudel, Margaret Bourke-White, Carrie Mae Weems, Judith Leyster, and Sofonisba Anguissola, among many others. It has also acquired important works by Frida Kahlo, K’the Kollwitz, Joan Snyder and many others. NMWA has also offered more than 400 diverse education and outreach programs and created a Library and Research Center (LRC) with specialized holdings.
ACNMWA is a nonprofit statewide volunteer organization begun in 1989 to advocate for the new National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and women artists and arts professionals in our state. Advocacy for the museum began with the endowment of the Arkansas Gallery in the NMWA Elisabeth Kasser Wing and recently included a 25th anniversary gift of $25,000 to the museum. Advocacy for Arkansas women artists is organized into three ongoing programs:
- Paid internships for educational development
- Paid scholarships to support new creative work
- Juried art exhibits – including curated submissions for the NMWA’s biennial “Women to Watch” exhibition series and a state-wide traveling exhibition that features work by the selected Arkansas artists
The Arkansas Committee of NMWA provided Exhibition support to “Workt by Hand: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts Exhibition” at the NMWA in Washington, D.C., December 20, 2013 – April 27, 2014.
Work by Arkansas artist Louise Halsey was selected as part of the exhibition “High Fiber: Women to Watch” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, November 2, 2012 – January 6, 2013.
Dawn Holder’s installation piece, “Monoculture,” was selected for inclusion in “Organic Matters: Women to Watch 2015” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, June 5 – September 15, 2015.
Two of Holly Laws’ sculptures were selected for inclusion in Heavy Metal: Women to Watch 2018 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, June 28 – September 16, 2018: Three Eastern Bluebirds and Placeholder.