Challenges Remain For Women Leaders In Arts Organizations

Dashboard artist Andre Keichian shows the relationship between art and space in her installation piece.
Credit David W Batterman
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In 2010, Beth Malone and Courtney Hammond set out to fix a disconnect in the Atlanta art scene.

Certainly, there were artists, and there were galleries and museums, but there were few spaces in between for emerging yet seasoned artists. 

So, they started the entrepreneurial Dashboard Co-op to help artists curate their work in unused and under-imagined locations to encourage maximum creativity through art and space. 

Its mission requires business strategy and deep knowledge of the Atlanta culture and, as with any organization from Fortune 500 companies to arts nonprofits, a duo of women in leadership faces many challenges. 

In Atlanta, it’s mostly women who hold leadership positions in theses small, up-and-coming entrepreneurial arts organizations like Dashboard, the art criticism non-profit BurnAway​, the dance troupe gloATL, and MINT Gallery.

“[It’s] all of us collectively being inspired by each other and doing this cross promotion and pollination. It works really, really well,” says Malone. 

Despite this collective leadership, Malone and Hammond cite a continued gender gap in terms of highlighted artists in Atlanta, even within their own organization. 

“We have to do better to support female artists, ourselves included. We do think about diversity, but we don’t develop our shows around it, but we certainly think about it every time we have a show,” Malone says.

As leaders of an organization, the duo say they have encountered their own versions of sexism when negotiating with property owners and local bands, among other situations. 

“There have been specific instances where our board members who are male were with us because of their specific knowledge, an architect and a lawyer, and a property wouldn’t even look at us when he was talking,” says Hammond. 

Now, in its fifth year, Dashboard has hosted 20 exhibitions. The current ongoing exhibition “Dialogue: Conflict/Resolution” features six artists who examine notions of conflict in their work. The artists range from an experienced documentary photographer in her early eighties to an emerging artist still in the process of getting his BFA at Georgia State.