All over New York City, art is everywhere. From the star-spangled ceiling of Grand Central to the mosaic tile under the street sign at the corner of Spring and Elizabeth, art is the thread from which New York is woven. But for women in the arts, it remains difficult to gain the visibility of a Times Square billboard.
That’s why, in 2006, the artist Alice Mizrachi founded Younity Collective, a 120-woman strong network of urban artists who put together shows, lectures, public installations, in support of community engagement in the arts.
Mural from the Bushwick Collective Block Party (2013)
It seems nearly trite now to ask why more women aren’t involved in the arts – they’re there, you’re just not seeing them! seems to suffice as an answer – but in the early aughts, Mizrachi and her friends found female artists’ lack of visibility disturbing. Over a few dinner parties, Mizrachi told me, the idea for Younity came together as a network for working women artists, who, frustrated by the difficulty of gaining acceptance in the mainstream art world, wanted simply to do it themselves.
“I felt like there wasn’t a professional platform for women,” Mizrachi said. “I just found something that wasn’t there and needed to be there.”
Along with women like Diana McClure, Toofly and Queen Andrea, Younity focused on delegating tasks to according to each member’s “best strength.” The Younity blog boasts of “stylez, ideaz, & skillz,” and none of these are in short supply. The list of member artists is simply too exhaustive to reproduce here, and the ladies involved have been EVERYWHERE, and their mission is clear. One artist calls herself “Not Bad For a Girl”; others span the globe from the Netherlands and the UK to South Africa to NYC. Younity members have been shown in places as diverse as New York City and Tel Aviv, San Fransisco and Berlin.
Collaboration between Mizrachi and Olek in Welling Court, Queens (2013)
Mizrachi admits that maintaining such a large network is difficult. “Years go by without talking to some of these women, but when I see something one of these women might be suited for, I’ll reach out.” The organization believes that each woman should contribute according to her “best strengths”; when starting the collective, Mizrachi called on McClure to organize panels, Queen Andrea to design the website, and so on. As for her, Mizrachi tackles administrative duties, reaching out to spaces and artists, leading youth mentoring workshops and keeping up the collective’s immense network.
This dynamic makes for an ever-changing flow of artists associated with the Younity conversation, allowing an inexhaustible voice to weigh in on topics like “Goddesshood,” leadership among women, even the color purple, the latter of which was the theme of the most recent Younity exhibition, curated by Mizrachi and McClure.
“Purple,” which was shown in October, 2012, allowed the artists featured “a nice break from being socially, politically active,” and the opportunity to “interpret something simple, like a color.” Eleven artists participated, including Olek, Sofia Maldondado, Gilf!, McClure and Mizrachi. The result was a string of mediations on royalty, cats, goddesshood, the female form, patriotism, iconography, and basically anything else you can think of.
Promo poster for “Purple” (2012)
The collective dialogue created by Younity remains an emblem of the DIY movement and a testament to the fact that anywhere you see a vacuum, you have the power to fill it. Mizrachi said that she’s proud of her “enabling other women and empowering them” with the perpetuity of Younity’s conversation. Like the goddess Isis, everywoman figure and subject of the most recent Younity installment, Younity fills the mold of the creator, organizer, promoter and distributor.
Check out their blog for ways to get involved or to stay posted on women-related exhibitions, lectures, performances and the conversation.
Thanks to Alice Mizrachi for photos