#MuseumStoreSUNDAY: Strong Women

December 1, 2019

What do you do with your holiday time? I love museums and their stores almost as much as I love libraries. Going into an exhibit can feel like traveling to another place or another time and I always see things from a new perspective.

Lisa Niver and Joan Weinthal Clayton at NMWA

I recently went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts for the first time in Washington D.C. I specifically went there to see the new Judy Chicago exhibit, The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, to honor the memory of my mentor who recently died. It is a moving exhibit and the first room is an exploration of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief. The second room is personal musings on mortality and the third room focuses on creatures and communities like polar bears, Mexican gray wolves, orchids, bleached coral reefs, frogs, penguins and turtles. Habitat destruction and other environmental issues are bringing these animals and plants to the brink of extinction. The exhibit includes nearly 40 works of painted porcelain and glass, as well as two large bronze sculptures. The pieces are smaller in scale and include Chicago’s handwriting. It feels very personal almost like reading her journal. Chicago is asking us, now that you are faced with these realities, what are you willing to do?

The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction photos courtesy of Judy Chicago

Joannie Parker, my mentor,  taught my high school Women’s Studies class about Judy Chicago and took us to see her installations including both The Dinner Party and The Birth Project.

Lisa Niver and Judy Chicago at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery for Visionary Women Salon

Recently, I was able to meet Judy Chicago when she was in Los Angeles for the opening of her exhibit at The Jeffrey Deitch Gallery. Visionary Women hosted a salon in her honor with a discussion about women in art including Judy Chicago, Andrea Bowers and Connie Butler.

Video: Visionary Women Salon

Many of my best museum experiences have taught me about important women. Currently at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, you can see Notorious RBG, a phenomenal exhibit about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I loved it so much I went twice when it was at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. I was inspired and saw both recent movies about her, read her book and wrote about her for The Female Quotient on her birthday.

Last year at the Skirball Cultural Center, I learned about Mexican-born, American Jewish writer Anita Brenner (1905–1974). I was spell-bound by the exhibit and her journey to becoming a journalist. I had never heard of her but learning about her life story helped me work think differently about some of my own issues with my career in journalism.

Lisa Niver, Penn Quaker and Rabbi Faith Dantowitz

In New York City, I visited The Jewish Museum with my friend from University of Pennsylvania, Rabbi Faith Dantowitz, and we even brought the PENN Quaker with us. We explored the exhibit: “Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art.” I had never heard of her and I was amazed to learn what she accomplished.

I loved the story of how Halpert met and advised Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. She represented artists including Georgia O”Keeffe and worked to change her reputation that Steiglitz had immortalized. She believed folk art was important, helped her artists have their own exhibits and promoted racial integration. She was the first mainstream art dealer to represent an African American. When an artist she represented, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, who was a Japanese born painter, was labeled an enemy alien, she kept supporting him and made a retrospective of his work.

Whether you are looking for a new perspective on death and dying, or on your career aspirations, if you are interested in the path to becoming a Supreme Court Judge, or be the first to promote certain artists, or be exposed to people, places, experiences from the past and present in all different mediums, I highly recommend a visit to the museum!

I am so grateful to have recently seen carefully curated exhibits about Jewish women who have changed all our lives! Make sure to find your favorite exhibit in your home town or on your next travels. I wanted to share these stories today as it is Museum Store Sunday. You can learn more about art, nature, culture, science and history at a museum near you.

“On December 1, 2019, for the third consecutive year, more than 1,200 museum stores representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 18 countries, and five continents will offer inspired shopping at museums and cultural institutions during Museum Store Sunday – an exciting annual event and shopping campaign that encourages consumers and museum visitors to consciously contribute to the future sustainability and success of each museum and cultural institution.”

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