School of Education News

Women Artists Forward Fund of alums Baker, Ross profiled by The Capital Times

November 21, 2019

The Women Artists Forward Fund, founded by UW-Madison alumnae Brenda Baker and Bird Ross, was recently profiled by the Capital Times. 

Baker earned her master of fine art’s from the School of Education’s Art Department in 1990, while Ross earned the same degree in 1992. 

The report explains how Baker and Ross dreamed up the idea for an art prize to support Dane County’s professional female artists two years ago, a result of the profound gender disparities of the art world. According to The Capital Times, only 30 percent of artists represented in commercial galleries in U.S. are women. 

“We wanted to showcase people who were artists, who keep their practice as their predominant work,” Ross told the newspaper. “We wanted people to know how those people are.”

After researching grant programs and working with others in the community, the pair launched the Women Artists Forward Fund (WAFF) in 2017 with the Madison Community Foundation and the Overture Center for the Arts signed on as partners. Baker and Ross’s project is now the third largest grant for women artists in the country.  

“The web of connections we have now has been really gratifying,” comments Baker. “We have such a generous community, and we’re so grateful for that.”

They put out their first call for artists in summer 2019, and received 70 applications. Last Friday, an anonymous jury chose the first two recipients, Jennifer Angus and Dakota Mace, a Diné (Navajo) artist, both with ties to the School of Education.

Angus, who constructs intricate installations using real, dead insects, is the Audrey Rothermel Bascom Professor in Human Ecology. She is also an affiliate with the School of Education’s Art Department.

In applying, Angus was motivated by showing support for her collegaues and students. “Getting this award, it’s my turn to pay it forward,” Angus said. “I should be mentoring and supporting younger artists.”

Mace works in photography and indigenous textiles, and received her second master of fine arts (MFA) degree from UW-Madison in May 2018. Her first MFA was in photography, while the second was in textile design. She plans on use some of the grant funds for cochineal and indigo dyes, which will allow her to make fabric for weaving workshops. Mace reports to the Capital Times that she is excited to share her culture with a broader audience. 

In addition to the two winners, five women were named finalists: Hannah Bennet, Angelica Contreras, Martha Glowacki, Emily Leach, and Helen Lee. 

Read The Capital Times article here.

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