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May 15, 2013

Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
June 12, 2013 – October 27, 2013

Seattle – A decade ago, two 20-something women—a London fashion photographer and the daughter of a master-weaver from the Mekong region of Lao PDR—came together to form the cooperative OckPopTok. Meaning “East Meets West,” this 21st century cooperative is as likely to sell wall hangings inspired by Mark Rothko, as the traditional skirts woven with Laotian motifs.

Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities, a traveling exhibit coming to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, provides an intimate view of the work of ten women-run artisan cooperatives from across the world. The exhibit features the artists’ personal stories and stunning examples of the cooperatives' handmade traditional arts. Each object represents the power of women working together to transform their lives—and the lives of their families, their children, and their communities.

Each of the ten co-operatives featured in this show has a different motivation. Art binds them, but the market drives them. In 10 years, OckPopTok has grown from a one-room weaving studio for local weavers to an internationally-recognized heritage destination, gallery, retreat center, and women’s weaving collaborative for over 200 artisans in three provinces and seven villages, helping women survive and thrive.

The Burke Museum will add to Empowering Women with its own display of “Transformational Goods,” where visitors will see artisan-made items with a local connection. Learn about some of the Pacific Northwest entrepreneurs, citizens, and organizations that are supporting artisans and transforming communities across the globe.

Items from the “Transformational Goods” display will be available for purchase, offering all museum visitors a simple and direct way to support grassroots cooperatives.

Empowering Women Programs:

On June 15, the Burke celebrates the opening of Empowering Women with a look at art from Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca. Talks include: 

  • 11 am and 2 pm, Eric Mindling, the founder of Traditions Mexico. Eric will speak about the Burke Museum’s Hart Collection of Oaxacan pottery and the predominantly female potters who created it. When he first saw the collection, he was, “… blown away. The collection is one of a kind. I'd wager there is not another like it.” The talk will be richly illustrated with slides from more than twenty years of touring Oaxaca, and will provide the opportunity to view pottery from the Hart collection that is not normally on display. 
  • 12:30 pm, Pastora Gutierrez, the founder of Vida Nueva, a women's weaving cooperative in the Zapotec community of Teotitlan del Valle. Pastora will discuss the formation of Vida Nueva and the challenges that woman weavers face as they break into a prestigious profession traditionally dominated by men. A weaving by Pastora will be on display during the run of Empowering Women.

On July 20-21, come to the Burke’s Empowering Women Artisan Market, open both Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 3 pm. This event offers the rare chance to meet artists from around the globe. Expect this market to spill outside the museum, in true street market style! Highlights include:

  • A dozen leaders from the women-run artist cooperatives featured in the exhibit will demonstrate their skills in basketry, printing, weaving, and more. Their beautiful pieces will be available for purchase this weekend only. Artisan cooperatives from Rwanda, Morocco, Lao PDR, Nepal, India, and Bolivia are represented.
  • The exhibit’s original curator, Dr. Suzanne Seriff, will share her experience working with artisan cooperatives around the world to develop this exhibit and lead gallery tours and conversations with the artisans.
  • Retailer Ten Thousand Villages will add to the Artisan Market by offering an array of goods made by co-ops from around the world.

Empowering Women showcases the transformative power of women working together to provide for their families, educate their children, steward their environment, promote equality, and give back to their communities. Join the Burke to discover how the intersection of art, commerce, and culture is changing lives across the globe—and in our own backyard.

High resolution images available, contact burkepr@uw.edu.

Empowering Women is a traveling exhibition organized by the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with guest curator Dr. Suzanne Seriff. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is hosting the exhibit with sponsorship from: 4Culture, Microsoft, and Quest for Truth Foundation; and support from: Kym Aughtry, Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation, Marrella Fund, OneFamily Foundation, Ten Thousand Villages, Tulalip Tribes, and U.S. Bancorp Foundation.

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274

A Tai Lue woman from Ban Na Nyang teaches spinning cotton to a Tai Dam woman from Phongsaly, Lao PDR, 2010.
Photograph by Jack Parsons.