The papers for the Houston Women's Caucus for Art (HWCA) span from its founding in 1978 to 2004. Some items, however, pre-date this period. The largest portion of the records is devoted to photos and to art exhibitions sponsored by the Caucus. The next largest portion includes newsletters, grant applications and fundraising, financial records, and conferences. The remainder of the collection is devoted to information pertaining to the business of the Caucus, membership, and the visual arts in Houston. Many of the items located in this collection do not specifically deal with the HWCA. Some are more general art news, activism, arts organizations, or other chapters of the National Women's Caucus for Art. These materials have been retained in order to give researchers a sense of the networking, interests, and activities of the Caucus beyond the city of Houston.
The collection has fifteen series: Administration, Firehouse Gallery, Newsletters, Shows, Events, Fundraising, Members, Finances, Conferences, Photos, Clippings, General Visual Arts, Posters, Lectures, Papers and Speeches, and Printed Materials. The original arrangement varied according to year. Generally, previous record keepers tended to organize the documents around fundraising, particularly grant applications, and around art shows sponsored by the Caucus. The current organization was imposed by the archivist, and it follows a topical arrangement.
Open for research.
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For privacy reasons, membership records and lists cannot be photocopied.
14.00 Linear Feet
The surge of woman-centered activity that came in the wake of the 1977 National Women's Conference inspired women in Houston's artistic community to bind together and form their own chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art. The National Women's Caucus for Art had grown out of a discussion on gender at an art conference in San Francisco, California in 1972. The national organization's stated purpose was "to win parity in the valuation of works by women; to create new opportunities for women to document, produce and exhibit works, and to assemble for the exchange of ideas, experience and constructive criticism." On January 10, 1978, the Houston Women's Caucus for Art expanded that mission to Houston and held its first organizational meeting. In 1980, the state of Texas recognized the group as a non-profit organization.
Meetings were held monthly, and membership quickly expanded. Members elected a board of directors or executive board. The positions in this board have varied over the years, but consisted of a president, program coordinator, secretary, treasurer, exhibition coordinator, publicity coordinator, membership coordinator, newsletter editor, and special events coordinator in 1997. The board makes all of the major decisions for the organization; however, officers welcome input from a community advisory board and all members.
While the Caucus first met in the household of one of its members, the organization soon realized the need for a larger meeting space. Preferably, this space should have a gallery in which members could hold exhibitions. To obtain this, the Caucus joined other Montrose area organizations in the Neartown Association. This neighborhood community group helped to preserve and restore an old Montrose fire station at 1413 Westheimer, which became the meeting and exhibition hall for all groups. By 1983, the Caucus proved to be the most frequent user of the facility, and signed a long-term lease. In 1998, Harris County purchased the Firehouse and the Caucus continued to sublet its space as a gallery for experimental, up and coming, and member artists until 1999. During 1999, the county decided to use the entire building as office space, and so the Caucus relocated to 3015 Richmond, Suite 270, in the Upper Kirby Building. The Caucus has an office and a large meeting room available, but presently does not have a space to use as a gallery.
The Caucus has remained true to its purposes in over three decades of its existence. The group sponsors local artists through individual, group, and member shows. The organization has also helped to bring many artists of national renown and controversy to Houston, such as Matuschka, Judy Chicago, and Karen Finley. Not only has the Caucus shown a commitment to artistic expression, but it has also shown a commitment to feminist activism. Exhibitions have included artwork by survivors of domestic violence and art promoting awareness of breast cancer. Furthermore, the very existence of the HWCA has allowed many women an exhibition space that would otherwise be denied to them due to gender and racial discrimination in the art world.
Donated by Houston Women's Caucus for Art, 1999. Additional materials were acquired in 2008 as part of a donation by Houston Women's Caucus for Art.
Leigh Fought, June 1999
Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository