MC 1462

Inventory to the Linda L. Cunningham Collection

By Alexis Vitello

November 2018

Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries

Finding aid encoded in EAD, version 2002 by Tara Maharjan, November 2018
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Cunningham, Linda L.
Title: Linda L. Cunningham Collection
Dates: 1977-1995; bulk 1977-1978, 1986-1987
Quantity: 1 cubic foot (2 1/2 manuscript boxes and one oversized box)
Abstract: The collection consists of documents, books, pamphlets, and brochures that Linda Cunningham created or obtained while she was active with various feminist artists groups. Items also included are photographs, negatives, and clothing. A third of the collection documents the Women Artist Visibility Event II, “Now You See Us” that occured in 1986 and Linda Cunningham served as national coordinator.
Collection No.: MC 1462
Language: English
Repository: Rutgers University Libraries. Special Collections and University Archives

Biographical Sketch

Linda L. Cunningham (1939-) is a sculptural and multimedia artist who was an active participant in the feminist art movement in the 1970s and 1980s. She is a New York City-based artist who exhibits extensively both in New York and Germany. As a former professor (1976-2002), Linda Cunningham founded and administered the exhibition program at Franklin and Marshall College. During her tenure, she was involved with various national women artist groups, including the Women’s Caucus for Art and the Coalition of Women’s Art Organizations, which actively focused on increasing women’s presence and acknowledgement within the art community. She was also involved in organizing the first open artist studios in the South Bronx in 2005, and in early 2009 she helped found BronxArtSpace. Currently she lives in Florida.

The Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) was founded in 1972 after a gathering of women members at the College Art Association’s (CCA) 61st conference in San Francisco, CA. The gathering addressed the lack of female representation at the conference, both on the board of directors and presenters. Inspired by the second wave feminist movement, female artists collaborated to gain recognition within the art community. Elected at the first gathering, Ann Sutherland Harris was elected WCA’s first president. Members of WCA organized protests, female-focused art exhibitions, and conferences. They also promoted increased research on women artists and feminist perspectives on art. Efforts included developing women’s studies courses for colleges and universities and publishing writings of various lengths on the topic. A major event in the organization’s early history was participating in the National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas on November 18 to 21, 1977, as part of the International Year of the Woman (IYW). IYW was an initiative created by the United Nations in 1975 to end discrimination against women worldwide. The United States had numerous events held by private and public organizations to honor the year’s designation, such as the conference in Houston. The federal government created the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year to gather and present statistical information on the status of women in society. The report they created included a national plan of action that presented recommendations on major issues affecting women.

In 1977, right before the Houston conference, the Coalition of Women’s Art Organizations (CWAO) was created within WCA to act as a political lobbying group. Designated as a 501(c)(6) organization, the CWAO was legally allowed to dedicate all their activities to political issues, unlike the WCA which was limited to 20 percent of total expenditure for political activities. Linda Cunningham designed the organization’s structure and wrote its bylaws before the first official meeting in January 1978 in New York. Utilizing the IYW Commission report, state arts workshops and panels feedback, and a CWAO poll, she worked with other activists to create the coalition’s first national platform. Cunningham also served as CWAO’s Vice President of Membership. The group was pivotal in political actions included lobbying Congress and testifying on arts legislation and the publication of statistics on sex differentials in employment and in exhibition opportunities.

On September 27, 1986, WCA sponsored a nation-wide series of events under the title Women Artists Visibility Event II (WAVE II) “Now You See Us”. The event was a follow-up to 1984’s WAVE “The Museum of Modern Art Opens But Not To Women Artists” in New York. The events were intended to draw attention to the work of contemporary women in the visual arts and the failures of some major institutions to recognize their contributions to the field. Institutions identified as transgressors were ones that received public funding but did not represent diverse populations in their collections and exhibitions. Linda Cunningham was the national coordinator for the event that included 16 WCA chapters from across the country. Some of the chapters that participated were New York, Miami, Kentucky, Seattle, Minnesota, San Antonio, Indiana, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. The local events consisted of protests, marches, guest speakers, performance art, and discussion groups.

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Scope and Content Note

The Linda L. Cunningham collection documents Linda Cunningham’s career as a female artist activist during the 1970s and 1980s. It is approximately 1 cubic foot in size, comprising 2 1/2 manuscript boxes and 1 oversized archival box. Her work with two different art activist organizations is represented in the collection, the Coalition of Women Art Organizations and the Women’s Caucus for Art. Records include organizational bylaws, press statements, event programs, newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, negatives, and event planning documents. Majority of the collection consists of items that Cunningham personally generated or collected as part of her activism. A substantial portion of the collection documents the Women Artist Visibility Event II (WAVE II), which Cunningham organized. There are newspaper articles, photographs and letters that record the planning process and the response to the events from across the country. The Collection comprises two series: 1) ORGANIZATIONAL PAPERS AND PUBLICATIONS, 1977-1995, and 2) MEMORABILIA,, 1986.

Oversized items, including posters and newspapers, are housed in oversized storage boxes. The collection contains 3 t-shirts that are housed separately with oversized items from the collection. Folders retain the names given by the creator, as does the order of the documents within each folder. The folders are organized alphabetically within four groupings, the National Women’s Conference, CWAO, WCA and WAVE II.

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Related Material

Judith Brodsky Papers

Miriam Schapiro Papers

Women's Caucus for Art Records

Women's Caucus for Art, New York City Chapter

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No restrictions.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Linda L. Cunningham Collection. MC 1462. Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.


Linda L. Cunningham personally donated the collection to Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives in 2018. She collected the records during her time working with feminist artist groups, both nationally and in New York.

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Garrard, Mary D., “Feminist Politics: Networks and Organizations.” in Power of Feminist Art, edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, 88-103. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1994.

Cunningham, Linda L., “Linda L. Cunningham.” Accessed 10/9/2018.

Dickinson, Eleanor, “The History of the Women’s Caucus for Art” in Blaze: Discourse on Art, Women and Feminism, edited by Kathy A. Halamka and Karen Frostig. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007.

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Detailed Description of the Collection/Container List

This section provides descriptions of the materials found within each series. Each series description is followed by a container list, which gives the titles of the "containers" (for example, folders, volumes, or cassettes) and their locations in the numbered boxes that comprise the collection. The availability of any digital items from a container is indicated with a hyperlink.

Box Folder
1 1-3 National Women’s Conference Houston, 1976-1977
See also Showdown at Houston? Newspaper, Coyote Howls Newspaper, Plexus Newspaper in oversized box.
4 New York State Conference - Preparation for Houston, 1977
5 The Decade of Women, 1980
Box Folder
2 1 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - At the 1st National Women’s Conference - Houston, 1977
See also Art Workers News Newspaper in oversized box.
2 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Discrimination Statistics and Bibliography, 1978-1979
3 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Lobbying - Washington, 1979
4 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Report from Copenhagen, 1980
5 Coalition of Women Art Organizations Organization/ Mission, 1977-1979
See also CWAOnews newsletter in oversized box.
6 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Testimony - New York City Commission on the Status of Women, 1977
7 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Testimony House Appropriation - Subcommittee on the Interior, 1978
8 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Testimony - 1978 Lobbying Senate Committee on Human Resources, 1978-1980
9 Coalition of Women Art Organizations - Work with Joan Mondale - Washington Lobby, 1978-1979
See also Art Workers News Newspaper in oversized box.
10 Coalition of Women Art Organizations/Women’s Caucus for Art - Joint Conferences, 1981-1982
11 Women’s Caucus for Art - National Conference Programs & Exhibitions - New York Chapter Files of Newsletters, 1978-1982
See also Views By Women Artists Poster in oversized box.
12 Women’s Caucus for Art - National Conference Programs & Exhibitions - New York Chapter Files of Newsletters, 1986-1992
13 Women’s Caucus for Art - Newsletters, Recent National Updates, New York Chapter News, 1980-1995
See also SHESPEAKS Newsletter in oversized box.
14 Women’s Caucus for Art Publication, 1978-1986
See also Arts & Artists Newspaper in oversized box.
15 Women’s Caucus for Art - 1994 Program - National Endowment for the Arts Grant Statement, 1994
See also The Women’s Health show poster in oversized box.
16 Women’s Caucus for Art - Visibility Event “Now You See Us” - 1986 - Protests National, 1986
See also Posters in oversized box.
17 Women’s Caucus for Art - Women in Arts Visibility Event II - Letter mailings, Call for Action, 1986
Box Folder
3 1 Women’s Caucus for Art - Women in Arts Visibility Event II - Letters to Museums, 1986
2 Women’s Caucus for Art - Women in Arts Visibility Event II - National Results Documents, 1986-1987
See also Posters in oversized box.
3 Women’s Caucus for Art - Women in Arts Visibility Event II - Press, 1986-1987
4 Women’s Caucus for Art - Women in Arts Visibility Event II - Statistics - Women Artists, 1986
5 Women’s Caucus for Art - Women in Arts Visibility Event II - Photo Documentation, 1986
[Oversized] 3 Rally T-shirts - Women in Arts Visibility Event II, 1986