Pen + Brush, the only non-profit in New York devoted to showcasing work by women in the contemporary and literary arts, announces its 125th anniversary beginning January 2019 and continuing through 2020. For well over a century the organization has run on a mission of exposing the public to the talent and vision of women creatives in both industries. With this commitment, preconceived notions of what women’s work looks or sounds like continue to be challenged.
In 1893, during the dawning of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., the New York-based painter Janet C. Lewis sent a letter to a network of women creatives proposing the establishment of a new organization exclusively for women interested in the pursuit of art and literature. The purpose of the group, as Lewis described, was to be for mutual improvement, advancement and social discourse. The entity was to be called “The Pen and Brush” and its inaugural meeting was held in the Fifth Avenue Hotel on March 29, 1894. After years of nomadic meetings and events, the first permanent home of Pen + Brush was purchased in 1923: a four-story townhouse in the East Village.
It marked the beginning of a series of consistent programming and an opening of the organization’s doors to the public. Through the generations, Pen + Brush has been a meeting of the minds featuring the participation and support of trailblazing women such as the suffragist and author Grace Seton Thompson, pioneer investigative journalist and writer Ida Tarbell, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Marianne Moore, Margaret Widdemer, and Pearl S. Buck, who also received the Nobel Prize in Literature; and renowned visual artists Isabel Whitney, Malvina Hoffman, Clara Sipprell, and Jessie Tarbox Beals.
In 2015, after 90 years in the 10th Street townhouse, Pen + Brush moved to a new state-of-the-art facility in New York’s Flatiron District. The custom-built design offers museum-quality exhibition space for hundreds of professional women in the contemporary and literary arts. Breakthrough exhibitions have included work by Lola Flash, Michela Martello, Tricia Wright, Lady Pink, SWOON and many others.
The 21st century also marks the first time the organization has published its own literary magazine, Pen + Brush in Print. The magazine launched in the summer of 2018 with a second volume published on November 7th, 2018.
Pen + Brush Executive Director, Janice Sands, states, “Since the time of its inception in the 19th century, Pen + Brush has been on the frontlines of affirming the powerful work of women and attesting its merit to the public at large. It remains an uphill battle yet the reward of offering a platform for dynamic women in the contemporary and literary arts is what keeps the organization thriving.”
POWArts founder Sara Kay says, “The unwavering and outstanding work that Pen + Brush has done in the last 125 years, and continues to do today, cannot be overstated. More than ever, we need organizations like Pen + Brush championing the advancement of women and I am grateful every day for the powerful work done by this change making organization. I am honored to call the leaders who work tirelessly to fulfill their mission both allies and friends, POWArts stands in full support. I wish Pen + Brush massive success in fulfilling their goals and cannot wait to see what they have in store for the future, no doubt, it will be game-changing.”