The History of Women’s Studio Workshop
Women’s Studio Workshop was founded in 1974 by four women artists, Ann Kalmbach, Tatana Kellner, Anita Wetzel, and Barbara Leoff Burge. They were committed to developing an alternative space for artists to create new work and share skills. Programs were centered on the artistic process and often informed by feminist values.
Early History of WSW
In the early years, the studios were located in a two-story single-family house. Etching was in the living room, papermaking was in the attic, and screen printing was in the basement. Public programming included a regular workshop series, as well as special programs that featured the work of women artists. Women’s Work in Film and Video, a long-standing series of topical films made by women film makers, and Outskirts, a series of 2-dimensional art exhibits, were initiated in 1976. These seasonal series were housed alternately at bars, dance studios or libraries—any place where we could access a new audience. The intention was to exhibit the work of women artists as well as provide professional experiences for the artists themselves.
Binnewater Arts Center
In 1983, WSW moved into the Binnewater Arts Center (BAC), which was a major step forward. This made it possible for us to house both exhibition and studio programs under one roof. The BAC is a historic building that was once the Rosendale Cement Company Store and Post Office. From the Victorian-style porch of the two-story frame and clapboard building, one could hear the roar of the kilns, the ringing of picks and hammers in the quarrying pits and the clanging of an endless stream of railroad cars.* A century later, the empty mines from those days speckle the rolling mountains of Rosendale where a “new” industry has replaced the old. On long wooden counters that once displayed sacks of flour and kegs of nails for sale to the miners, professional artists and students of both genders and all ages now assemble collages, manufacture handmade paper or print and bind books in WSW classes and as part of the residency and fellowship programs. The BAC also made it possible for us to offer Artist-in-Residence grants, have a full fledged Summer Art Institute, and offer opportunities for young women artists through our Internship program. With these visual arts programs our standing as the leading women’s art facility in the country was established; and we proudly hold that identifying brand today.
Over time we have gravitated towards programming that provides the richest experiences for artists. Artist Grants, Residencies, the Summer Art Institute, and Internships have become the basis of our professional programs attracting artists from around the world. Public programs with a local audience include our Art-in-Education (both fellowships and grants) initiative and community ceramics workshops.
Women’s Studio Workshop Today
Today, thirty years later, each of the four founding women artists are still very much involved in the day-to-day operation of the studios. Together with a vibrant new generation of staff, WSW continues to refine its programs and studios so that we may continue to provide the finest opportunities for artists from across the country and, increasingly, around the world.