The History of Through the Flower

Through the Flower was founded by Judy Chicago in 1977 as a 501(c)3 non- profit organization. Its original mission involved providing a fiscal structure for donations to help complete The Dinner Party. But this quickly changed, and soon Through the Flower began to organize the worldwide exhibition tour that brought The Dinner Party to sixteen venues in six countries and three continents, where over one million people viewed Judy Chicago’s monumental tribute to women in Western civilization. The permanent housing of The Dinner Party was always part of Judy Chicago’s goal, largely because she believes that it is in part women’s ongoing excision from both history and art history which prevents women from full cultural and social participation. (Even today, women’s work comprises only 5% of museum collections). After The Dinner Party returned to the United States, Through the Flower cared for the work until Chicago’s goal of permanent housing was achieved in 2007 at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

The Dinner Party Curriculum Project:

In 2009, Through the Flower launched The Dinner Party K-12 Curriculum which was created by Judy Chicago with renowned art educator Dr. Marilyn Stewart and colleagues at Kutztown University. The Curriculum is now available online in perpetuity at Penn State University, which is known as one of the most prestigious art education programs in the U.S. Penn State University also houses the Judy Chicago Art Education Archive and, in partnership with Through the Flower, each year awards the Judy Chicago Art Education Award.

Other Through the Flower Activities and Projects:

Through the Flower has supported numerous projects since its inception. From 1980 – 1985, Through the Flower sponsored the Birth Project, a series of painted and needleworked images by Judy Chicago celebrating birth and creation. At the end of the exhibition tour, Through the Flower placed the Birth Project works in over 30 institutions so that women’s experiences could become a permanent part of our cultural heritage. From 1985 – 1993, Through the Flower sponsored the Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light by Judy Chicago and her husband, photographer Donald Woodman, along with assorted artisans. An unflinching examination of a dark period of history, the exhibition was traveled by Through the Flower to ten venues and, more recently, selected work continues to travel.

In 1990, Through the Flower relocated from California (where it began) to New Mexico and began a series of educational seminars, workshops, and lectures around the state. It also launched many exhibitions of Feminist artists, instituted the Founding Feminist Award, and the New Mexico Women’s Cultural Corridor project, which tied together various sites in the state devoted to women. Through the Flower established the Through the Flower Library “By and About Women” at the University of New Mexico Valencia Campus where the gift of 1100 books from the original The Dinner Party research library, has grown to over 2100, and which are available all over New Mexico through inter-library loan.

In 2013, Through the Flower gifted the International Honor Quilt, a project involving over 600 quilts that had toured with The Dinner Party, and had then been archived by Through the Flower, to the University of Louisville and the Hite Art Institute. The project, which had been initiated by Judy Chicago in 1980, will be used for educational purposes and permanently available for active research and study.

Through the Flower has developed relationships with a number of institutions across the country including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Cambridge, MA; and several museums with significant collections of works gifted by Through the Flower and holdings of archive material. Recently the Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment acquired Judy Chicago’s fireworks archive and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation has added Chicago’s print archive to their collection. Through the Flower continues to work with each of these institutions to ensure that these archives are made available to the public and are also properly maintained and cared for. More information on these institutions may be found on this website.

Our Current Activities:

Through the Flower continues to fulfill its mission by providing resource and research materials through our institutional partners, and to students and scholars worldwide. In 2019 the Through the Flower Art Space was opened at 107 Becker Ave, in Belen, New Mexico as a space for visitors to learn more about the lives and legacy of Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman through history and art exhibitions, and to access the educational resource center that is made up of printed books, magazines, videos, and computer stations for accessing the Judy Chicago Research Portal as well as other online resources.