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Arzie Umali, UMKC Women’s Center, Curates Exhibition of Art by Women


The UMKC Women’s Center and the InterUrban ArtHouse are collaborating on the exhibition “Her Art: Who Does She Think She Is” running now through April 19 at the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park. Arzie Umali, assistant director of the UMKC Women’s Center, is curator of the show.

Umali and the founder and artist, Nicole Emanuel, are friends. They worked together on past exhibitions including the first “Who Does She Think She Is?” exhibit in 2010 that included Emanuel as the presenting artist. Since then, the two have worked on multiple arts projects together.

Organizing an exhibition like this one took months of preparation. The call for artists to submit visual art, spoken word, music and other programming went out in November 2018. Once the artists were selected and notified in January, artwork was selected from the 50 artists chosen.

This isn’t Umali’s first exhibition as curator. Her first show was in 2010 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the Crossroads. It was also the inaugural show that launched the Her Art Project. For that show, the gallery director at that time, Holly Swangstu, and Umali invited specific artists to exhibit in that show.

“Most of the artists were pretty well known and established in the local arts community,” Umali said.

They had 27 artists in that show and hosted another exhibit with the same name featuring 28 local artists the following year. This year’s show was almost twice as large with 50 women artists, which Umali considers a success as well as being an outlet for her own creativity.

“As an advocate for women artists, it means that I support the contributions that all women are making in the arts, no matter what art form,” Umali said. “And it means that intentional efforts need to be made to make sure women artists are celebrated, respected, and valued for their artistic contributions. It is important that we support women artists. People need to see that women have a unique voice that needs to be heard. And see that women are not one dimensional, but unique, complex, and diverse. And that shows in the art that they create.”

According to Umali, women are not equally regarded or represented in the arts as men are.

“Male artists are collected more, shown more and their art is valued higher on the art market,” Umali said. “There is an institutionalized sexism in the arts that has existed for centuries that continues to devalue women artists. By doing intentional programming to highlight the creative work that women do, we are raising awareness of the issue.”

Umali is looking forward to the April 11 discussion, “The State of Women in the Arts.” The event, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., is an evening of networking and conversation with local women artists, educators and advocates on the state of women in the arts.

For a complete list of the remaining events, visit the event page.

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