Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL)




Art is a human endeavor with complex associations to the spiritual, social, economic and political realms of societies throughout the ages. From the cave painting of ancient cultures through the artworks housed and guarded within institutional walls, the products of artists mirror the evolution of human imagination and chronicle the assignment of value and importance as determined by hegemonic interests. For centuries, the patriarchal hegemony disallowed the contributions of women artists, normalizing the point of view that their contributions were inconsequential to the history of art and to the movements that heralded each new breakthrough in vision.

The civil rights movement and the women's movement of the 19th and 20th Centuries marked a significant turning point in consciousness among women in the United States with the realization that there were undeniable parallels between discrimination based on race and discrimination based on gender. Similar strategies in the fight for individual rights and freedom of minorities could be applied toward championing rights and freedom for women. The social phenomenon of the women's movement challenged the status quo as women sought redress for the discrimination rampant, among other arenas, in the arts.

Studies have shown that discrimination against women in the visual arts has been historically virulent, but current research lacks studies specific to the strategies and skills contemporary women have used to engage in careers in the visual arts despite adversity. As the visual arts represent not only a vocational choice but also a rarified arena of power and wealth, it is important to identify means by which longevity and achievement in the visual arts can be realized. This paper hypothesizes that in order to survive in the visual V arts women have had to be leaders. For the purposes of this research study, leadership is defined using the Augsburg College leadership development model and using change oriented models of leadership, including charismatic, transformational and visionary.

The research applies leadership theory as a framework to understand the phenomenon of women artists achieving historic gains in the 1960s - 1980s. Lengthy interviews conducted with ten women artists provide depth in understanding the experiences and points of view of individuals whose vocational choices are in the visual arts. Research and interview results support the hypothesis that women artists sustaining vocations in the visual arts embody leadership attributes and qualify as leaders according to contemporary leadership theory. Final speculations about the importance of art and the importance of women's leadership in the visual arts are discussed in terms of the potential for adaptive change and the transformation needed to meet human needs in a pluralistic, global economy.


SC 11.MAL.2007.MacNabb.V.A