From Founding Mothers to ARTsisters: Defining the American Dream

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While July in Philadelphia is sure to be doused in red, white and blue — Independence Day and the Democratic National Convention are around the corner — now the Old City Jewish Art Center is also getting involved in the festivities.
 

While Democrats will be making history at the Wells Fargo Center next month, local female artists will be showcasing “herstory” in Old City.
 
And July in Philadelphia is sure to be doused in red, white and blue — Independence Day and the Democratic National Convention are around the corner — now the Old City Jewish Art Center is also getting involved in the festivities.
 
The center will showcase work from ARTsisters for the entire month of July with an exhibit called American Dreams.
 
ARTsisters is a collective group of female artists — about 24 contributed to this showcase — and their pieces will be tied to the DNC and their interpretations of the quintessential “American dream.”
 
The center also will host receptions on July 1 and 24 for the artists and visitors. A portion of the proceeds made by the center will be given to the Hope Partnership for Education. 
 
Linda Dubin Garfield founded ARTsisters 11 years ago when she wanted to pursue her own dream of becoming an artist full time.
 
“When I would talk to my friends — and especially my sisters, who I’m very close to — they just had no sense of what I was talking about,” she explained, whether it was about being excited or disappointed about an art show or a piece she was working on.
 
But with her one longtime friend and mutual artist, Leslie DeBrocky, she felt a connection.
 
“‘You’re like my art sister because I can really talk to you about anything,’” she recalled telling her.
 
So, ARTsisters was born, and now the group has about 26 members.
 
They started out smaller though, holding monthly shows and meetings, but they always remembered to give back to their community with their art.
 
“The mission is professional women artists who help each other and the community through their art,” she added. “We always had a charitable component that we would give a percentage of the sales to an agency of some sort or we would donate art to an art cause.”
 
The group once donated their art to a child advocacy center, for example, and the center made $3,000 that it wouldn’t otherwise have by selling those pieces.
 
The women often met in the since-closed Borders coffee shop in Wynnewood — also the neighborhood where Garfield lives — or different people’s homes to discuss criticisms, reactions and ideas for new exhibits.
 
But the monthly business meeting was strictly for board members because “30 women making a decision is sometimes very tough,” she laughed, “so when it’s only 10 it’s a lot easier.”
 
American Dreams illustrates several types of media and styles from the diverse group of women.
 
“It will be things that relate to how the artist interpreted American dreams; what does that mean to you,” she added.
 
For Garfield’s piece, she created a play on the American flag.
 
She made two smaller pieces and one larger — the only requirement is that everyone’s work must fit within the 40 inches of space given — to display her interpretation of Betsy Ross’ near finished work.
 
Using paper that resembled fabric and a needle and thread, she created Betsy’s Almost Done.  
 
“They’re supposed to be like the practice ones that Betsy Ross made before she finally decided on the actual pattern that we would have,” she said.
 
Of the more than 20 artists participating — some are Jewish but not all — about 50 to 60 pieces of their art will be shown at the center.
 
“We wanted a theme that would attract the people who are coming [for the DNC] and have something to do with America in a positive way,” said Garfield, who belongs to Congregation Beth Hamedrosh in Wynnewood.
 
Although humble, Garfield is just glad that the women of ARTsisters are making a difference — like many other women in politics and the world today.
 
“Women are underrepresented in art and museums. There’s so many different artists and some people just sign their last name. They don’t want people to know that they’re women because maybe people won’t buy the art,” she said.
 
“I think that us having this show and seeing this strong women’s presence of very diverse art, very diverse styles, diverse media, the whole thing is just an eye opener for people who come in and see what women can do.” 
 
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