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All Women Shows: Helping or Hindering?

By June 19, 2017 No Comments

“I would prefer if we didn’t need to have all-female shows, but I will be part of them until we don’t need to have them anymore.” —Artist Katie Stout

Image from Dezeen: All-women design shows are "snowballing" in New York following Trump inauguration

Image from Dezeen: All-women design shows are “snowballing” in New York following Trump inauguration

Takeaways from ICFF

2017 marked the 29th year of ICFF, the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair held at the Jacob K. Javits center in downtown New York. Over the nearly-three-decade period, satellite shows, events, galas, and the like have sprung-up throughout the city—all in the name of design. In 2017, for the first time ever, the combined events were titled “NYCxDesign” Month.

This year, there was a marked uptick in shows actively highlighting the role of “women” across the landscape of art and design, and showcasing a variety of designers who are creating some of the most innovative ideas on the market. CNN addressed the surge in their story, “NYCxDesign: Why All-Female Shows are Popping Up All Over New York.

Story Highlights

ICFF Show Highlights

At TARRA, we seek out opportunities to connect with exceptional women who are pushing the boundaries of design, and NYCxDesign made our quest a little easier this year. Here are two of events we visited, and a few notes about what we took away from the dialogue.

The Egg Collective: “Designing Women”

The Egg Collective, a furniture design company based in Brooklyn, hosted a show titled “Designing Women”, organized to “highlight and support the…work being made by these contemporary designers, and to support equality and empowerment of women worldwide.”

With a lineup of 16 New York-based artists and designers, the collection included furniture, accessories, wallpaper, lighting and art, with a common thread of boundary pushing and strength.

Designers and Artists Featured:
Anna KarlinBec BrittainBrvtvs: Caroline VenturaCallidus Guild: Yolande BatteauDana BarnesDeborah EhrlichEgg Collective: Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis and Hillary PetrieHigh Gloss: Natalie HerreraHiroko  TakedaLindsey AdelmanKinder Modern: Lora AppletonMaria MoyerMoving Mountains: Syrette LewObject and Totem: Julianne Ahn

Image of Designing Women exhibit as featured in Dezeen

Image of Designing Women exhibit as featured in Dezeen

Women x Design Panel

Post-ICFF festivities, 50+ women gathered on the 11th floor of a bright new office building in Brooklyn for a conversation with five highly accomplished women who are making waves in the design world. The audience was comprised of fresh young faces, mostly young women at the beginning of their careers, looking for advice, mentorship, community, and some tips on how to navigate their careers.

The panel explored the various issues faced by women in design, and offered insights into the challenges, successes and journey that got them where they are today:

Amanda Carroll: Principal at Gensler
Ilene Shaw: CEO & Creative Director, Shaw & Co. Productions
Karen Stone: Director of Design, Knoll, Inc.
Liz Jackson: Chief Advocacy Officer, Inclusive Fashion & Design Collective
Miya Osaki, Partner at Diagram

The evening’s take away?

There was great sense of optimism pervasive throughout the conversation and a poignant difference in the attitude of three generations. Where Karen Stone, who has been in the industry for 30+ years, was skeptical about change and sees a continued struggle in the quest for equality, Amanda Carroll was extremely optimistic, believing that equality was imminent.

The Question

Right now, there is a lot of discourse around the value of women-driven shows and collectives. In a recent interview with Dezeen Magazine, architect Dorte Mandrup addressed the topic: “However well-meaning, I cannot help but wonder whether magazines, galleries and websites could instead find a genuine and conscious way to remember to include women in their daily mentioning of architecture? Singling out a small group of women is just a case of misguided charity and does not simply buy atonement for forgetting about women for the remainder of the year.”

Råå Preschool designed by architect Dorte Mandrup

Råå Preschool designed by architect Dorte Mandrup

TARRA is determined to level the playing field across creative industries but, in that quest, need to be cognizant of the nuances. We are encouraged by the uptick in shows highlighting the works of women but recognize that we welcome this shift through the (possibly rose-tinted?) lens of our own ambitions. 

This is where we want to hear your feedback.

What is your take on the idea of all-female shows and conversations? Are we perpetuating the problem by separating ourselves out, or are we abating it by highlighting the innovation and creativity of the female perspective on the built environment? Do you feel that the experience of “Woman Who Creates” is different now than it was five years ago? Ten years ago?

Finally, we want to leave you with the words of Amanda Carroll. Her advice to young women: “Come prepared. You might be one of the only women at the table. Take it out of the equation and be killer at whatever you want to accomplish. Sit at the head of the table. Don’t be afraid.”



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