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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Empowering Women opens at Carnegie Museum of Natural History


Ten different countries, ten empowering enterprises, countless lives uplifted.

A new exhibition opening on Saturday, October 6th at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) showcases grassroots cooperatives developed by female artisans around the globe that are using arts to affect social change.

On view through May 12, 2013, Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities presents the work of ten creative enterprises from ten different countries. Each has a different motivation behind it--from reviving a lost heritage and sustaining the environment, to providing a safe haven from violence. In addition to their beauty and embodiment of a masterful skill, craft and creativity, all the objects featured in Empowering Women have powerful stories to tell.

Industrious and courageous female entrepreneurs have launched arts cooperatives from the ground up to raise income, reach new markets, and help women survive. The compelling show features work by artisans based in Rwanda, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, Morocco, India, Nepal, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bolivia, and Peru. Works include embroidered story cloths, hand-dyed baskets, beaded neck collars, wool weavings, bromeliad bags, and folk paintings--as well as accompanying photographs.

Museum visitors to will learn about how women work collaboratively to create products, develop distribution networks and distribute or invest revenues. Via a stunning display of highly tactile folk art objects, as well as accompanying public programs, visitors of all ages will discover firsthand about how these artistic cooperatives empower women to provide for their families, educate their children, promote equality, and give back to their communities.

Women's stories, women's work

Throughout the duration of Empowering Women, the museum will host a variety of engaging public programming, including demonstrations and discussions with local, national, and international female artisans. Featured will be demos by artisans from the Gahaya Links Cooperative in Rwanda, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual Cherokee cooperative, the Center for Traditional Weaving in Peru, and locally based groups.

Don't miss the exhibition's opening day Saturday, October 6, which will feature a variety of public programs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., including craft-making demonstrations by local and international cooperatives--such as the Center for Traditional Weaving located in Cusco, Peru--and children's art activities. Try your hand at some of the traditional crafts in Empowering Women, as you learn to tie a Turk’s head knot and make a coil basket.

Explore the impact of these artisans at a lecture by exhibition curator, Dr. Suzanne Seriff, who will lead the talk, "Let's Talk About This!: Women Folk Artists Speak Out for Social Change Through Their Arts," starting at 1 p.m. From 10 a.m.–noon, the CMNH will conduct a members-only preview of Empowering Women, and then at noon, the show will open to the public.

In their own words

Don't miss one of the museum's special Talking Circles (Oct. 11, Nov. 15, Feb. 21), which invite the public to share thoughts in and hear the perspectives of others during facilitator-led sessions that will explore the changing social status of women around the world, gender rights, labor issues, market risks, and family roles.

Inspired by a long-standing tradition found in hundreds of tribes of Native Americans and First Nations people of Canada, Talking Circles employ a unique, non-hierarchical format which gives all participants an opportunity to speak without interruptions or hostile reactions.

Participation is limited; pre-registration is required. To register for a Talking Circle, contact Anupama Jain at 412-622-6570 or jaina@carnegiemnh.org.

Go beyond the gallery

On April 12th and 13th the museum will present an in-depth look at women-run artisan cooperatives during the symposium, "Micro-lending and Women’s Cooperatives: Changing Women, Families and Societies." The two-day symposium will feature lectures, demonstrations and presentations by micro-lenders, co-op founders, cooperative members, and academic experts studying the social impact of women’s cooperatives.

Aimed at stimulating a discussion around women’s entrepreneurial pursuits, the event will address topics such as: how to initiate a cooperative, how to cope with changes in communities as a result of improved social and economic status, and the benefits associated with women’s cooperatives.

Organized by the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM, Empowering Women is a project of Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Center for World Cultures and is located in the CMNH's R.P. Simmons Family Gallery.

Launched in December 2011 under the direction of Sandra Olsen, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Center for World Cultures is educated to enhancing an understanding of the richness and variety of cultural diversity around the world and the relationship between humans and their environment. Center researchers and educators develop new approaches to studying and sharing the museum’s archaeological and ethnographic collections, and also produce exhibitions, public programs, and publications that celebrate the diversity of cultures around the world.

View a complete schedule of related programming.

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