Does Gender Play a Role in the Art Scene? Four Local Philadelphia Artists Share Their Personal Experiences
Gender bias and inequality is sadly still widespread in many professional industries. I asked some Philadelphia-based artists which gender they feel dominates the local art scene, and if they've experienced unfair treatment.
A few words about yourself...
Artist 1 (he/him): I am 29 years old, live in Germantown, and have been self-employed for almost nine years now, working full-time as an artist and art professor.
Artist 2 (he/him): I am 25 years old and got my degree in Arts and Cultural Management two years ago. I specialize in Photoshop and other creative work. Currently, I work in e-commerce, taking on content marketing, web design and photography.
Artist 3 (she/her): I am 53 years old and have been a freelance artist for 22 years now. I paint, build sculptures and write novels.
Artist 4 (she/her): I am a freelance visual artist and own a studio in North Philly.
How did you find your way into the art world?
Artist 1: Truthfully, I think my family influenced me heavily. Several of my relatives have art degrees but unfortunately never did anything with them. Because of my family’s interest in the arts, I had a very deep and personal artistic education from an early age on, which continued into adolescence and was always actively a part of my life as a hobby.
Artist 2: I have always been creative, and my biggest hobby since I first got my hands on a camera has been photography.
Artist 3: I was very creative even as a child. I wrote poetry, painted, made crafts, and sketched designs.
Artist 4: It was more of a hobby during high school and college, but I decided to pursue it full-time once I realized I could make money from it.
Do you get the impression that one gender is generally more creative than the other?
Artist 1: Not really. My guess is that the amount of creativity a person has stems from the social and financial environment they grew up in. People who have to get by with less are more likely (and forced) to find creative ways to occupy themselves, and often times, they find that in some form of art.
Artist 2: I don't think gender plays a role in creativity. All genders can be equally creative.
Artist 3: No. But men seem to have a harder time dealing with creative criticism.
Artist 4: No. When it comes to women in the arts, people often refer to “housewife art” and don’t take it seriously as a profession.
Many industries are still very male-dominated. Is that an issue you've perceived in the arts industry, too?
Artist 1: It's true that more women publically present themselves as artists. But I haven’t experienced a “battle of the genders” at all. I do often witness completely absurd competitions for recognition and attention in relation to other areas, regardless of gender.
Artist 2: I think that women, especially in creative professions, are successfully starting to break away from gender biases and inequality. Although it will probably always be an issue in most industries, whether people like to admit it or not. At my company, I’ve never noticed any issues along those lines, even though I am probably not the right person to ask as a man. I do think it's generally going in the right direction though.
Artist 3: In terms of selling work, men may be able to market themselves better because they are more confident, bold and direct with their approach.
Artist 4: Personally, I’ve experienced gender bias in the art world. It stems from a money-focused and male-dominated market in which art collectors and gallery owners are only after money. Art serves mainly as an investment, while the artist is only a means to an end. Certain artists who have made a name for themselves then become a part of the problem, too.
Do you think that artwork is viewed differently by people when the gender of the artist is known?
Artist 1: Not at all.
Artist 2: I think how a work of art is looked at is completely different for every person. Of course, there will be artists who focus more on one gender as an audience, but I think that’s not too common. I think if a viewer knows the gender of the artist, their perception of the intent and message may be different.
Artist 3: No, I’ve never experienced that.
Artist 4: I’ve noticed that men tend to get more credit for their artistic abilities. That has to stop.