Girls’ Club in Flagler Village, Fort Lauderdale is on a mission to educate the public and act as a resource for artists, students, curators, writers, the wider community, while nurturing the careers of contemporary female artists. The gallery and space has been doing so for over 10 years, and they don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. We spoke with Sarah Michelle Rupert, Director of Collections at Girls’ Club, to learn more about the day-to-day of operating such a unique institution that is part artist-run space, part private collection exhibition space.
Hi Sarah! Can you tell us more about the origin and mission of Girls’ Club?
Girls’ Club was started in 2006 by our founders, artist Francie Bishop Good and her husband David Horvitz. They had been collecting artwork as a couple for more than 30 years and felt an urge to share it with a larger audience. Francie met with artist Michelle Weinberg, Girls’ Club’s founding director, and in 2007 they opened Girls’ Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village.
We focus on collection work by women artists at all stages in their careers. Works are purchased directly from artists, from galleries and through portfolios. Our mission guides us to further nurture those careers through programming opportunities, exhibitions, and commissions.
The first iteration of Girls’ Club launched in a renovated warehouse designed by local architect Margi Nothard. The space’s unique features added to the multi-functionality of Girls’ Club and acted as a home base for almost 10 years of exhibitions, education programs, and events that built up the area into a hub for contemporary art. We now occupy a warehouse on the north end of Flagler Village, which is used as a project space to present small exhibitions as well as our main storage facility for the 1,000+ piece collection.
Our team is incredible, creative, adaptable and quick-thinking. With such a small team, we find ever creative ways to make an impact!
How have you interacted with the local community through your educational programs, exhibitions, and beyond?
The community has been at the heart of Girls’ Club programming since its inception. Working with local artists, curators, and writers, Girls’ Club programs are inherently artist-centric and are fueled by the idea that art can change lives.
Our exhibitions, and the collection too, include a large number of local artists. During our main exhibits, we feature local artists almost exclusively for public events, enabling us to work with the artist to host a talk, one-on-one workshop, panel or even a performance. Some of my favorite past programs were our Art Fallout events, Artists in Actions! Series, a Visiting Artist Series and our Writer in Residence program.
We’ve taken a creative approach to educational programs at Girls’ Club. By integrating artist-led workshops into many of our exhibitions or present professional development workshops for artists, our team has been able to provide the public and the artists we represent with educational resources. From 2014 – 2017 we ran a fellowship program to support young museum and arts professionals, empowering each fellow to create their own independent project and learn the inner workings of exhibition, collection, and event management practices. You can find out more on their projects on our website.
Why is it important to elevate the work of independent women artists?
While we focus on contemporary art by women, our collection, and our programming has never been exclusively female. Right now, the collection is about 80% women artists, and that is reflected in our exhibitions as well. However, the focus on empowering female artists is at the core of all we do. Knowing how biased the art world has been for centuries, it’s important for us to double down on the underrepresented. This includes women, artists of color, specifically Black artists, and also local artists.
Under-representation in the art world isn’t just visibility in exhibitions – it is much more pervasive than that. It’s gallery representation, retail prices, auction records, awards and fellowships, museum collections, wage gaps in artist and performance fees, salary disparities in museums, and more.
What’s your favorite part of the Flagler Village art community?
Flagler Village’s a unique place for art! Although artists have had studios and homes here for decades, it’s such a new community for the most part. The variety here and the sense of community is definitely my favorite part.
What upcoming exhibition are you most excited about?
We have two exhibits coming up that we are very excited for! This month, we’re opening a small project called Double Trouble, that explores a collaborative artist book project by artist Michelle Weinberg and writer Denise Duhamel. The exhibit will showcase pages from the book and online we’ll have resources that dive into their collaborative process.
Later in the winter, we’ll be exhibiting a large grouping of Civil Rights Era photography. This part of the collection is rarely seen outside our founder’s home and private office space, so we are looking forward to sharing these historic and powerful images. The exhibit will be a bit of a departure for us, not only in the fact that the majority of works are by male photographers but in the tone and historic nature of the exhibit and the resources we’ll be sourcing for the show.
Thank you Sarah! Want to learn more about Flagler Village? Check out our Ultimate Flagler Village Neighborhood Guide and explore our Fort Lauderdale home, The Edge by Common.