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Changing Houston, Changing Women's Lives:
The Houston Women's Caucus for Art, 1978 - 1988

By MaryRoss Taylor

To that end, the Caucus was visibly present in October 1978 at a gathering of over fifty artists at the Contemporary Arts Museum. Artists protested their exclusion from museum governance, arguing that the museum was so important to them that it should not operate without their input. The outcome of the meeting was a twelve-member artists' advisory committee of the museum. Affirming the credibility of the Caucus, four of the twelve (chosen by the artists themselves) were chapter leaders: Gertrude Barnstone, Jan Beauboeuf, Roberta F. Harris and Lynn Randolph.25

Political action was swift, but organizing lectures and exhibitions took longer. The Caucus really established itself in 1979. 

The April membership roster lists sixty members; in May, the HWCA Board decided to apply for formal nonprofit tax-deductible status.26  For the first time the Caucus put on exhibitions. These were in mainstream public places, although not at art institutions. Houston Public Library downtown was the site of the first HWCA exhibition, "18 x 24," in January 1979. The Caucus also presented "Four Men / Four Women," a juried exhibition at the Alley Theater in late January during the play Artichoke.27  In February, a free public slide lecture by noted New York feminist art critic Lucy Lippard proved the value of bringing in experts. Lippard secured slides from some HWCA artists for her future lectures.28  In summer 1979, a Caucus program introduced the New York Feminist Art Institute in SoHo, with slides of Institute founders' work and "survival kits" of tips for women visiting New York City alone.29

Painter Lynn Randolph became president for 1979 - 1980. Randolph originated important programs and wielded a wide personal acquaintanceship on behalf of the group. By summer 1979, the Caucus was achieving one goal: inclusion in Houston art exhibition opportunities. After debating with Randolph about the type of exhibition he needed to launch Lawndale as an inclusive and attractive space, James Surls included Caucus members in the invitation to all Houston artists to participate in Lawndale's inaugural exhibition, "Miniatures," held August 31 - September 29. Shortly afterward, the Caucus sponsored a reception at Randolph's home for eighty-year-old Louisiana sculptor Clyde Connell, whose first solo exhibition in Houston was at Lawndale from September 28 - November 23, 1979.30  These were the first of many Lawndale - Caucus collaborations.

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