In my third year at Queen’s, I took a contemporary art history course dedicated to studying feminism and the feminist movement throughout the 1960’s. The course specifically looked at how marginalized groups and women were misrepresented in museums and gallery publications. As a woman who is part of a marginalized identity, I found this topic not only interesting and relatable, but integral beyond my interest in art—it’s important to acknowledge our histories and the level of oppression we have faced as women and to realize how important our voices are in the workforce and other creative industries. 

When we need to find introductory information about a subject while conducting research, especially regarding a person’s life, our first instinct is to use Wikipedia. In this case, one of the assignments of the art history course was to create a Wikipedia page dedicated to an underrepresented female artist from a marginalized minority.

A lot of female artists are misrepresented because of the art industry’s repressive history of excluding works of art by women of color. For this assignment, students were encouraged to search for artists using WikiProject Women in Red. In addition, the Art+Feminism project started in 2014. 

In an interview with Muse, Professor Jennifer Kennedy, the instructor for ARTH 310, said the project aims “to increase and improve representation of cis and trans women, feminism, and the arts on Wikipedia.”

I was baffled by how long the list of underrepresented women was. From Indigenous to Middle Eastern artists, this initiative shows the unregulated and discriminatory system perpetuated by the art industry through galleries and museums over the course of history.

The goal of this initiative is to minimize bias in terms of content regarding women of color, to make biographies more accurate and accessible, and to add more reliable information about women artists. 

For my project, I created a page for the Iraqi contemporary artist Widad Al-Orfali. While there was a Wikipedia page for her in Arabic, it wasn’t accessible to the public art sphere—which I found to be odd considering the impeccable contributions she has made to the art world post-American-Iraqi war in my community. 

So, I decided to indulge in my research and translate the original page into English. This was one of the most challenging and endearing projects I’ve had to do during my time at Queen’s. I found this project to be very empowering as a woman. 

If there’s one thing I have learned completing this assignment, it’s that making the smallest contribution—such as taking fifteen minutes to start a Wikipedia account— is enough to make a change for a cause you believe in. As scholars, our voices are very important, regardless of the matters we are interested in. 

Professor Kennedy holds drop-in Edit-A-Thons to continue the movement of increasing the representation and visibility of women throughout art history and to show the continuous misrepresentation of people of colour, in relation to their creative outlets, artistry, sexuality, and gender—asking us to consider how we should respond to these historical oversights as a community.

“Regardless of your major, editing Wikipedia is a very meaningful way to share what you are learning in university…at this year’s Edit-a-thon we created or improved fifty articles and another twenty-five or so will be added by students in ARTH 310,” 

Header Image: Wikipedia
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