Championing women in the arts? A piece of cake!

Feminist organisation celebrates 10th birthday with exhibition

Friday, 13th May — By Anna Lamche

Corrina Eastwood with Sweet ’Art co-founder Charlotte Elliston IMG_9027

Corrina Eastwood with Sweet ’Art co-founder Charlotte Elliston

VAGINA cupcakes, Donald Trump piñatas and Narnia-style ward­robes have all featured in shows held by a feminist arts organisation over the past decade.

Celebrating its 10th birthday with an exhibition, Sweet ’Art, which champions women in the arts, has warned that despite lots of hard work, female artists still face “huge barriers” to a career.

Co-founder and Islington resident Corrina Eastwood said “there’s a lot of performative talk about inclusivity [in the industry]”.

“But statistically, we’re still looking at pretty dire stats around who gets the most prestigious shows, who gets the most exposure, who has the loudest voices, who’s on the board, who’s running institutions, all of that stuff,” Ms Eastwood added.

Founded on the principles of openness and inclusivity, Sweet ’Art was set up to counteract this trend, Ms Eastwood said, aiming “to challenge that white cube, uninclusive space that a lot of people feel quite intimidated by”.

‘Vagina cupcakes’, which were served a decade ago, were back for the gallery open evening

For the next three months, City Road Basin will be home to the Art Bypass Gallery, a pop-up exhibition space that opened yesterday (Thursday) to celebrate 10 years of Sweet ’Art.

Set up by Ms Eastwood and her university friend Charlotte Elliston, Sweet ’Art was established in 2012 in aid of International Women’s Day.

The 2012 show was supposed to be a “standalone” exhibition exploring ideas of femininity and womanhood.

However, the exhibition was so popular that Sweet ’Art was born.

“There seemed to be a need for an organisation to champion the voices of women artists,” Ms Eastwood said.

At the first exhibition, held at The Crypt in St Pancras, women artists displayed a variety of works responding to themes of womanhood and femininity.

Guests were served “vagina cupcakes – which everyone loved at the time”, Ms Eastwood said. “No one had seen a vagina cupcake before!” This tradition continued at the gallery’s open evening last night.

This year, Sweet ’Art has put together an exhibition titled RetRespect, calling for women artists to respond to the works exhibited back in 2012.

Sculptures, video artworks and paintings are being shown by a range of “often excluded” artists.

The organisation has changed a lot since its initial exhibition, Ms Eastwood said, having “broadened our ideas around intersectional feminism” – the idea that feminism should pay attention to each individual woman’s experiences and identity – and paid special attention to “privileging the voices of otherness – people who are often excluded from the art world”.

RetRespect ends on the May 22. After that, Sweet ’Art will be exhibiting Significant Other, a show exploring the theme of “otherness”.

The Bypass Gallery will close with Free For All, an exhibition in which anyone who would like to show their art is encouraged to turn up on the day to display their work – provided it is not considered offensive by the curator.

“Just go for it – every­one can be an artist,” Ms Eastwood said.

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