More Than a Seat at the Table: An Interview with Jessica Porter of ArtTable

In 1980, a group of professional women in the arts founded ArtTable to serve as a resource for support and sharing opportunities in their field. Now, almost 40 years later, the non-profit has spread nationwide, with a mutual support network of over 1,200 women who are leaders in the visual arts. Members are able to share resources and participate in initiatives, programs, and networking events all over the country to advance leadership of women in the visual arts.  

Before joining ArtTable in July 2018 as Executive Director, Jessica Porter was the founding director of Porter Contemporary, an art gallery in Manhattan. We got the chance to sit down and chat with Jessica about her vision for the fast-expanding ArtTable.

How and why did you first decide to get involved in the art world?

I was always passionate and interested in the visual arts but it took some prodding from a friend for me to think of it as a career option and add Art History as a major in college. I loved looking at art from an early age and started to get some formal training and knowledge in the area from a French teacher in high school. It was really exciting because I was learning about something new in my non-native language and that added a bit of allure!

As the new executive director at ArtTable, what is your vision for the organization?

ArtTable has been around for 38 years bringing together a strong network of women in the art world. I see growing and strengthening this network as one of my major roles at ArtTable as well as inclusivity. I think it is important to continuously expand this network of inclusion to facilitate the future of the arts for everyone.

What are some of your favorite programs and initiatives ArtTable is offering right now?

Our Fellowship program, where we provide a real work experience and mentorship to female graduate students with diverse backgrounds is always high on my list. Since 2000, we have served 81 women in this way and I’m looking for more ways to grow this program.  I’m also really interested in some of the things our smaller, growing chapters are working on in Washington, DC and Los Angeles. The numbers are growing exponentially in these chapters along with the vast diversity of programming and I think that ArtTable can really make a difference.

What advice would you give to young women beginning careers in the arts, i.e. how to best advocate for themselves, or navigate the landscape of the art world?

I believe that young women entering the field should explore all the possibilities they can in the art world and work hard to defy the many labels for them entering this world. References like “gallery girl” and “gallerina”, etc act to diminish what these women have learned and what they are capable of. I would also encourage them to be flexible and find the silver lining in each experience no matter what! The art world can be brutal and flexibility mixed with a positive attitude is a great way to combat the tougher times.

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