Judy Baca at the Woman's Building 2004.
The Woman’s Building transformed feminist outrage into an iconoclastic Los Angeles institution that for 18 years was a magnet for women seeking to produce art on their own terms. The Woman’s Building was founded in 1973 by Arlene Raven, an art historian, critic and educator, artist Judy Chicago, and graphic designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville. The three women, who were colleagues at the California Institute of the Arts, also launched the Feminist Studio Workshop, a two-year training program that sought to merge consciousness-raising with practical art education.
For most of its existence, the Woman’s Building was a source of often outlandish creativity, where painters, poets, performance artists and others turned out work on subjects as mundane as waitressing and as disturbing as rape.
Raven, who often described the building as a place for “living and working with another vision of the world,” taught art history there and founded the Lesbian Art Project, which promoted work by and about lesbian artists.
The Woman’s Building took its name from a huge structure designed by Sophia Hayden for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that showcased women’s art and crafts from around the world. The Los Angeles Woman’s Building was believed to be the first major women’s art center since that time.
Initially located in the former Chouinard Art School near MacArthur Park, it housed the Feminist Studio Workshop, Sisterhood Bookstore, a women’s travel agency, galleries, a graphic design center and theater groups. It later moved to an industrial area on Spring Street, north of Chinatown, a block east of what is now the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
A number of nationally recognized artists found early support for their work at the Woman’s Building, including performance artist Suzanne Lacy and artists Judy Baca, Lili Lakich and Betye Saar.
The Woman’s Building closed in 1991.
Visit the Woman's Building and e-book.
Visit the interactive maps and images about Monuments: Diversity, Democracy and Freedom by The City Project.