In helping immigrant and refugee women get settled in this country, Marga Fripp discovered a surprising fact: Many of them were artists.
As president of Empowered Women International, which helps immigrant and refugee women use their artistic skills and international heritage to build profitable businesses in the Washington, D.C., area, Fripp saw a perfect opportunity.
A new show hosted by EWI at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, called “Women Artists as Change Makers,— is a way to open doors for these budding artists.
The nonprofit EWI launched in Alexandria, Va., in 2002, but this show is its first exhibit in the District. Fripp hopes to do more shows of this sort in the future, creating even more opportunities.
“We discover that every other immigrant we meet is an artist,— she said. “It’s just a matter of acknowledging that. Many women when they come to us, they don’t even call themselves an artist.—
The exhibit will feature 40 works by female artists, most of them born abroad. Each work is available for purchase at prices ranging from $150 to $900. Half of the profits from each sale will go to the artist, while the other half will be split between EWI and the Sewall-Belmont House.
Tonight’s opening reception lasts from 6 to 8 p.m. Visitors can purchase not just the artwork in the exhibit but also jewelry, handmade notecards and paper, and other art EWI-affiliated artists will make available. An Ethiopian woman will play jazz, and an EWI board member will perform an act as former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
The exhibit will be on display through mid-September. A loose theme of women as pioneers ties the works together, but a look around the room reveals that most of the women portrayed are minorities and most of the works, regardless of the medium, make use of vibrant colors.
Among the 40 works are Jung Eun Kim’s four contributions. Two of them look like mesmerizing targets. A close examination reveals what looks like crepe paper painstakingly laid down in circles.
Mekbib Gebertsadik’s memorable work leads the exhibit. Her paintings “Friday— and “Celebration— are on three-dimensional surfaces. A brightly clothed crowd looks into the distance, the surface they wait on carved into a cross shape, implying worship.
Elsa Gebreyesus’ point is a little more obvious. She contributed four acrylic works, making a statement about press freedom in the tiny east African country of Eritrea. Each luminous painting incorporates newsprint from an independent news outlet that was shut down in 2001.
The location for the exhibit is no accident. The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum was the home of women’s suffragist Alice Paul and is still owned and operated by the National Woman’s Party. The NWP exists today to teach about the women’s civil rights movement. The museum, located at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Second Street Northeast, next to the Hart Senate Office Building, is open for tours from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
The Sewall-Belmont House hosts about three exhibits a year, according to collections manager Jennifer Krafchik. The next exhibit will open at the end of September. It will feature the work of local female artists and will benefit the American Heart Association.