University Art Gallery reopens to celebrate 40 years of Women of Visions


The University Art Gallery reopened on Oct. 20 for its first in-person show since February 2020. The exhibition highlights artwork from the current members of Women of Visions to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their founding.

Women of Visions was established in 1981 by a group of Black women artists who had no opportunities to show their artwork in Pittsburgh. Their mission is to support one another and find opportunities to exhibit their artwork. It is now considered to be the longest-running Black women’s artist collective in the U.S.

All 22 current members of Women of Visions have artwork featured in the exhibition: Lynne b, Jo-Anne Bates, Ruth Bedeian, Christine McCray-Bethea, Tina Williams Brewer, Richena Brockinson, Pamela Cooper, Elizabeth Asche Douglas, Colette Funches, Annette Jackson, Ashley Jones, Charlotte Ka, LaVerne Kemp, Mary Martin, Altha Pittrell, Sharrell Rushin, Dominique Scaife, Edie Smith, Emmanuelle Wambach, Ruth Ward, Marcè Nixon-Washington, Janet Watkins.

The 50 works of art in the gallery feature varying media, including textiles, sculptures, quilts, paintings and ceramics. Together, they celebrate the power of Black women’s voices.

“The artists each have such a unique voice and a unique story to tell that it’s really lovely to see all their work here side by side. They come together with these diverse voices into such a powerful chorus,” said Sylvia Rhor Samaniego, the director and chief curator of the University Art Gallery.

Rhor earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Art from Pitt. She returned to the University because she wanted to use the gallery as a laboratory for students pursuing museum professions.

“I’m really interested in breathing new life into this gallery, and I feel that this show, especially since this is the show we’re reopening with after the pandemic, is the start of a new chapter and a new era,” Rhor said.

This exhibition is a part of Pitt’s annual student-curated show. The museum studies students participate in a two-semester sequential class where they learn how to make an exhibition and then collaborate to curate the show.

The first class in the two-semester experience is Curatorial Development, where the students learn how to research and develop an exhibition into a reality. Alex Taylor, an assistant professor and academic curator in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, taught the class in spring 2021. He and some of his students also are working on a publication about the history of Women of Visions.

The second class is Exhibition Presentation, which is currently being taught by Janet McCall, former executive director of Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh. In this class, students bring the exhibition to its final form. They learn how to engage and help audiences understand the artwork through exhibition labels and tours.

“The idea behind the show is to create opportunities for museum studies students to get hands-on practical experience in exhibition-making,” Taylor said. “This year it’s been really exciting for students to build this project from the ground up and work with contemporary artists here in Pittsburgh.”

The exhibit will be up until Feb. 25. The gallery in the Frick Fine Arts Building is open to visitors from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and until 7 p.m. Thursdays.

Caroline Bielen is a student writer for the University Times.


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  • Ashley Jones' "More Than Just a Paper Bag" confronts the history of the "paper bag test," which used brown paper bags to judge skin tones. This installation includes portraits of current Women of Visions members. (Photos by Aimee Obidzinski | University of Pittsburgh)
  • LaVerne Kemp's "Rooted by Blood, The Journey of Ono and Hattie Bell"
  • Dominque Scaife's "Headwrap"
  • “Reclaiming Memory Game” by Mary Martin
  • The Women of Visions exhibit will be up through Feb. 25 at the University Art Gallery in the Frick Fine Arts building.