Interview with Kim Schoenstadt

On the morning of December 10, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) partnered with Los Angeles-based artist Kim Schoenstadt to organize an event called Now Be Here #3, a gathering of South Florida female identifying contemporary artists. There were 305 artists who braved the inclement weather to make history. “This community gathering comes at a time when issues of gender equality and identity are at the forefront of cultural discourse in the United States,” a PAMM press release reads.

I had the incredible opportunity to attend this event. There were several times that I had that chill run through my body when I heard something or felt something that truly resonated with me on an emotional level during the event. Schoenstadt discusses her thoughts on this and more about the event below.

Professional Artist: Tell us a little about you and your work.

Kim Schoenstadt: My work has always had two interlocking avenues of inquiry. The more visible part of my studio practice involves a formal interrogation of architecture and environments through drawing and installation work. The other less conspicuous side engages more sociologically and conceptually with groups of people in order to inform a work’s content.

Professional Artist: How did the idea evolve for Now Be Here? What was your inspiration?

Schoenstadt: The idea evolved after seeing the exhibition Revolution in the Making, at Hauser Wirth in Los Angeles, a survey of female sculptors from the last 70 years.

I was impressed at the work, but I was also impressed by what the show’s curator, Jenni Sorkin, said: “For every artist in the show, there’s many, many other female artists we could have selected from.”

A big part of my motivation was to reconnect with my community of female artists. Openings are hard to really visit with each other and being a working mom I basically have three jobs: artist, mother, wife. I’m lucky to have an amazing husband, but the balancing act of being fully present in each part is nearly impossible. One does have to be present in the art world. Of course, the irony was that the day of the L.A. event I was so stressed out and worried, I really didn’t get to visit with my community.

Professional Artist: There have now been three gatherings: Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New York, and Miami. Are there any more planned?

Schoenstadt: There is interest in Washington, D.C., Texas, Poland, Portland, and a few others, but nothing is confirmed or settled. One artist in Colorado took it upon herself to organize her own event, which was amazing! She said afterwords she had no idea how much work was involved. It is a lot of work to organize these events. It is important to make sure sites know what they are getting into and can handle all the work involved.

Professional Artist: How did the experiences in the different locations vary?

Schoenstadt: Each city has its own personalities and communities. We learn from each city how to improve the next event. In L.A., we didn’t allow the ladies to go into the space until just before the photo was going to be taken and I did not say anything to the artists who gathered.

In New York, we changed it up. The artists could enter the photography area whenever they arrived and there was a statement from me and others involved.

In Miami, we had to have three different plans for the photograph because of weather and group size. If it was sunny the artists were to be on the beach in front of the museum. If it rained (which it was and it was really pouring) we had to be inside. If 300 artists showed up we were to be in the Learning Center. If 500 or 600 artists showed up we had to be in the auditorium. Gesi Schilling, the photographer, had to be super flexible and nimble siting three spaces and having the equipment for each site. The museum had to rent a scissor lift which ultimately we didn’t use.

Professional Artist: What are some of the outcomes of this event? Does it add to the conversation about the lesser role women have had in the art world via exhibitions in museums and galleries?

Schoenstadt: We will see. I feel the website and archive will provide curators and directors a searchable list of [female] artists — a useful tool, so to speak. It is incomplete because it is only the artists who showed up on that day. I’ve applied for some grants and hope to organize a more complete list of artists, so even though one does not see their faces, one could know they are living and working in that city.

The other byproduct is that it reminds us all of our community/colleagues. I learned something big with these projects, which is museums and galleries feel shows are successful based on the amount of people who go to see the show. So, I tell artists they must support each other. They need to show up to each others’ shows. It is really difficult to balance it all. I can tell you when my mother was dying and my daughter was young, I could do my work, keep up with my exhibitions but only see shows online. I physically could not be present for it all.

Professional Artist: Being in that room at PAMM for me was exhilarating because of so much enthusiasm from everyone. Did you expect attendees to feel that way?

Schoenstadt: I have been trying to parse this phenomenon out for a while. It happens with each gathering. Perhaps it has something to do with being together and being seen. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that making art most of the time is a solitary endeavor. We work in our studios and when shows happen we work with curators or galleries for a bit. Then the show opens and we go back to being alone and hustling for the next show. I think the project allows artists to stand up and say, ‘I count, I’m here, see me!’

I personally loved seeing everyone again, even if just for a minute. As I mentioned before, the balancing act is so tenuous and delicate. Life throws up road blocks which prevent me/us from being at openings and supporting each other.

Professional Artist: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Schoenstadt: I think the big take away for me in the project is learning that we need to support each other by attending each others’ shows and attending female artists’ exhibitions. Museums and galleries pay attention to how many bodies walk through the doors for shows, and this is an easy way to let them know they should show this type of work again.

Brenda Hope Zappitell creates abstract expressionist works not only born out of intuition but also serendipitously influenced by nature and life experiences. She earned her B.S.W. from Florida State University in 1986 and her J.D. from University of Miami Law School in 1990. Zappitell is mostly self-taught but has attended classes and workshops in New Mexico, Mexico and Florida. She is represented at galleries around the country and has participated in solo and group exhibitions. Her work is in both private and public collections. Visit zappitellstudio.com.

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