Women and Money

Women’s relationships with money often are complicated, Ellen Schillace and others contend, and that is the basis of “The Women and Money Project.” The art exhibition and related events begin Sept. 6 at the University of Minnesota’s Regis Center for Art.

The organizers hope the exhibition will “impact art, discourse and public audiences by investigating and engaging our understanding of the relationships of women, art, money, exchange and social hierarchies.”

Schillace is curator of the exhibition, which is a collaboration between the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the Regis Center, the Minnesota Women’s Caucus for Art, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Women’s Congress for Future Generations.

The idea for an examination of money came from Schillace’s own perspective as a real estate agent and medical social worker. She saw the differences in women living in subsidized housing; in African-American women facing discrimination; and in the gender gap involving aging, housing and the ability to buy property.

In real estate, Schillace said, she has had an intimate relationship with clients and their financial story. She saw differences between women and men in how they relate to money. Women can be more self-conscious about having and not having money, more apologetic about their ability to manage credit and debt, and less comfortable having frank conversations about finances.

“[Historically] we come from a culture – as women – of not being involved in money, leaving it to someone else, or being taken care of,” Schillace says.

Organizers were purposeful in their efforts to showcase many voices and perspectives. The artists who are participating in the exhibition and events come from diverse backgrounds and represent a range of ages. Some are known artists, others have been flying under the radar, Schillace says.

As an example of the need for a broad demographic of artists, Schillace points to a generation gap: “[Age] definitely does affect the way people view money. I think that younger people can have a totally different approach to the construct of money than someone from, say, my [Baby Boomer] generation.”

When Schillace was growing up, some women chose not to participate in financial decisions in the household and may have lacked an understanding of money or even knowledge of the family’s financial status.

Race shapes financial experiences, too. Artist Camille Gage presents “On the Dollar,” a visual representation of the wage gaps for minority women and other demographic groups. According to the National Women’s Law Center, because of the wage gap, over the course of a 40-year career the average woman loses $430,480. For African-American women that loss is $877,480. For Latinas, the career losses amount to more than $1 million. “That’s all affecting quality of life for our children,” Schillace says, “and is just one example of how women are excluded from opportunities to generate wealth.”

“What is money? What does it mean to you? Does it work for you? Is it fair? Is there another way?” For the exhibition, Schillace put together a brief video documenting women’s responses to these five questions. The answers are as diverse as the women featured, who represent what Schillace calls the invisible people – they’re not at either extreme of the financial spectrum.

“The importance of the exhibition and events is to get the conversation going about women and their relationships with money, and for women to express what’s on their minds,” Schillace says.

Along with continued, deeper conversation, Schillace hopes the exhibition meets three goals: 1) to give people permission to speak and be heard, even when addressing an uncomfortable and often secret topic; 2) to free people from old constructs that don’t work for them anymore; and 3) pay the artists participating in the exhibition and workshops – an unusual goal in the art world.

Schillace says that the third goal is already being attained. Each artist will receive a stipend or honorarium.

“I wanted to set a precedent with our show,” Schillace says. It is, after all, a show about money.

The influence of money
by Barbara Bridges

My social practice artwork called “Transcending Race: But Not The 24-inch Waist” explores the challenges that were faced by 60-something-year-old women as they were “allowed” to enter the workforce in their 20s. Although women have made great strides in many areas, the body ideal today is still a 24-inch waist.

“Transcending” will be shown at the Women and Money Project exhibition. The life-size assemblage is an homage and critique of the DC Comics character Wonder Woman, first published in 1942.

The term “Wonder Women” emerged a few decades ago to describe how women were allowed to work outside the home as long as they continued to cover the family maintenance – childcare, shopping, cooking and cleaning. They truly were Wonder Women. It worked for everyone until these women reached a half-century mark and started asking for help. Then we started seeing articles about how aggressive these menopausal women were. Darn right they were grouchy! They were exhausted from decades of working two jobs!

The artwork “Transcending” features very tired eyes in a clay mask of the artist’s face, a Frida Kahlo uni-brow, breasts in a cage and a lasso of “no one truth.” She has no arms, to symbolize the difficulty of her responsibilities. She wears a 1950s-style apron finished with clothespin lace. The apron pockets are ready to receive more answers to my empirical study question: “As a woman, what is an important life decision you have made influenced by money?”

FFI: bridgescreate.com/artwork/transcending-race/
The study:

 The Women and Money Project
When: Sept. 6-Dec. 10, 2016, Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Regis Center for Art, University of Minnesota, 405 21st Ave. S., Mpls
FFI: A full schedule can be found at thewomenandmoneyproject.org and art.umn.edu/nash

The “Women and Money Project” exhibition will run in conjunction with several events at Regis. All events, except for a preview gala, are free, including:
“Putting Money into Perspective: What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?” Sept. 10, 2016, 2-5 p.m. A workshop on collective and individual attitudes about money.
“The Color of Wealth.” Oct. 8, 2016, 10 a.m.-noon. A symposium on women of color and wealth inequality. Book signing by Dr. Rose Brewer, co-author of “The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide.”
“The Caring Economy: Transcending the Status Quo.” Nov. 12, 2016, 1-4 p.m. How women’s invisible labor is central to our understanding of the caring economy and the real wealth of nations.