DONNE: Women empowerment in the arts

What does it mean to be a woman in the arts? The National Museum of Women in the Arts state that of all the contemporary visual artists of today, 51% of them identify as being female. Why is it then that only 5% of British galleries and exhibitions represent an equal number of work by men, women and those in between?

For as long as art has been around, work by marginalised artists has been buried beneath those created by men. Whether it be in music, theatre, visual art, literature and beyond, the benchmark standard for what is deemed worthy has been consistently set by males. Organisations such as Donne, however, are looking to change that.

DONNE: Women empowerment in the arts | Rock & Art

Donne was set up by Gabriella Di Laccio as a way to make a positive change and readdress gender equality within the creative industries. While the organisation started with women in music, they have the goal of expanding the promotion of women across all artistic fields; from film and theatre, to dance and literature. As an organisation, they believe it is imperative to continue to celebrate and amplify women so that they can leave a legacy of inspiration for those in the future.


What does Donne do?

As part of their endeavour to amplify and celebrate female creatives, Donne’s primary objective is their curation of the ‘Big List’. This is an ever expanding list which currently features more than 5,000 female creators – most of whom are composers and musicians. The list highlights women from all periods, dating back to premediaeval composers all the way to 21st century singer-songwriters.

The goal of the ‘Big List’ is to give readers and audiences the ability to pick a country, century, or music genre and find work by women. The nature of this means that it will never be complete. Curators and volunteers working for the organisation update the list on a regular basis, often calling out to their followers for suggestions of new creatives whose talent has yet to be recognised. Whilst at present the list is largely made up of women in the classical music world, Donne are excited to continue to expand it further to encompass women from all creative fields.

DONNE: Women empowerment in the arts | Rock & Art

As well as the ‘Big List’, Donne seek out to bring the arts to the mainstream, and as such have a number of playlists, videos and a blog to help educate people about female creators. Their podcast series ‘Conversations for Change’ explores the intersections of the arts and various social justice issues – including the importance of diversity, inclusivity, feminism and mental health.

Each episode is hosted by founder Gabriella and features a fellow creative. Mei-Ann Chen and Amanda Cook Edwina Dunn OBE are just a handful of the guests on these talks, each of whom provide invaluable insight towards different discussions.


Research and encouraging change

Aside from their more creative projects, Donne have also carried out a great deal of research into equality and diversity.

The most recent research paper sought to gain a better understanding of how classical music is responding to issues of equality and diversity. This particular paper looked at 100 orchestras over 27 countries and discovered that 88.55% of these scheduled concerts featured exclusively male composers. Furthermore, they found that a mere 5% of all compositions scheduled to be performed by these 100 orchestras worldwide (over the course of the 2020/21 season) were pieces written by women.

Their website also features reports and research papers exploring similar issues  within popular music. As well as their own research papers, Donne amplify and share research initiatives carried out by other organisations. Alongside these papers, Donne regularly hold events which deal with the intersections of arts and social justice.

Most recently, they held an event looking at creating inclusive choral spaces for women, a roundtable seminar which featured Kathleen Holma, Che Ramsden and Andrea Brown. Accessibility is incredibly important for these events and as such, they have all been held online and continue to be available to view on both Donne’s main website and YouTube page.


Can I get involved? 

There are a number of ways you can actively support the organisation and show your dedication to achieving gender equality and diversity in creative industries.

Both Donne and its founder Gabriella are active on social media, regularly offering insights into upcoming projects, research plans and events. You can also listen to the podcast series on all major streaming services (such as Spotify) to continue to amplify and learn about the intersections of art and social justice.

Alternatively, you can also choose to donate to the organisation. As an independent charity, Donne receive no government funding and thus are completely reliant on both individual and corporate supporters to continue their invaluable work. If you are interested in music, their website also features a small shop where you can purchase albums which are made up of work by women musicians. All the proceeds made from the albums feed straight back into the organisation and allow for them to continue to seek out equality for women in the arts.

DONNE: Women empowerment in the arts | Rock & Art