The following post was contributed by Randi Levine, Chair of Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy. She is also Commissioner at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and Trustee at The New Museum in New York City. This post is part of the HERspectives series honoring Meridian’s leading ladies during Women’s History Month.
Who is your biggest female inspiration or mentor?
It’s difficult to choose only one female inspiration since I am moved by so many leading women, and particularly inspired by women in the arts. To be a woman in the arts takes courage. It takes bravery to provoke thought, challenge norms, contrast reality, share unseen stories, and document often uncomfortable history.
Iconic artists like my friend Deborah Kass who uses her art and work to support important social causes like voting rights and equality; Carrie Mae Weems and Xaveria Simmons who confront the complexities of race and identity; Nicole Eisenman, whose artistic practice speaks to gender diversity and acceptance; and gallerist Mariane Ibrahim, who moved from Senegal inspired by Barack Obama’s election and brought with her the work and voices of African artists.
All of these women have touched my life through their art, inspired me through their personal drive, and continue to make me proud to be even a small part of the arts community.
What does ‘leadership’ mean to you?
Leadership means authenticity. Whether you’re a teacher, a painter, an elected official, a poet, a climate activist, or a CEO, leaders who bring authenticity to their work are truly unstoppable forces. Leaders who bring this authenticity to their craft are the women who change perceptions and have a profound impact – they mentor a classroom of students, contribute to a community in need, and uplift a generation.
Authentic leaders welcome collaboration. They are careful listeners, and in doing so, have the ability to understand diverse perspectives to expand their own personal journey into a shared vision. This leadership style is the foundation for my work at Meridian’s Center for Cultural Diplomacy, which fosters communication and builds bridges across borders.
How do you give back to and/or build pathways for future women leaders?
As a trustee at the New Museum and a member of its Artemis Council, I have become acutely aware of the gender gap for women in the arts. It may seem obvious, but in order to give back and build stronger pathways, we must dramatically increase our financial investments in women artists, filmmakers, gallerists, teachers, and curators. By doing so, we can help to close the gap that prevents women in the arts from becoming cultural leaders.
In 2019, the New York Times reported that “between 2008 and 2018, only 11 percent of art acquired by the country’s top museums for their permanent collections was by women” and “of the roughly 5,800 female artists whose works were acquired, 190 women — or just 3 percent — were African-American.”
The data speaks for itself and shows there is so much more work to be done. In my personal collection, I focus on supporting female visual artists. By following my instincts and emphasizing emerging female artists, I am investing in their professional growth and helping more people see, hear, and learn from them. My hope is that as more and more women continue to share their work, we will inspire a new generation of female artists who can do the same, creating new pathways for these women to lead the way.