HIVE Collective Empowers Women in the Austin Art World

Keya Kuruvilla models in the center of the room for the workshop goers to practice drawing.

Inside the open space of White Light Studio, lit by dull Sunday afternoon light, the room is silent as a group of women focus on the model standing tabletop and transfer her shape to their paper. The women are gathered for a figure drawing course, hosted by a women’s art collective called HIVE.

Story by Kassidy Curry
Photos by Miranda Chiechi

Jenni Kaye, Keya Kuruvilla, Beth Link and Caity Shaffer started the idea of the HIVE at the beginning of this year, when they all expressed their aspiration to be a part of a bigger creative project. HIVE is a space for women that holds artist workshops once per month and open studio hours each week. The concept was partly inspired from Link’s weekly “Badass Ladies” movie night, an ongoing event for the past two years where friends gather to watch films that empower women. “It sort of spawned from that,” Kaye says. “[We were] wanting to get together and do something creative outside of just watching a film.”

After collaborating on the initial idea, they sent out a survey on Facebook to see who else they knew that would be interested in such a program. They got a large number of responses that expressed the desire for a space for women to make art. “For me, I think a part of it was hearing friends voice their craving for a space that women can collaborate and communicate exclusively with each other,” Shaffer says. After better understanding the desires of potential members, they hosted a meeting for all of the people who were interested in participating to figure out how things would work and decide on things like the mission statement and the name. Even now, after starting the organization, the founders say they continue to work to satisfy the wants of members, encouraging suggestions for workshops and other matters at the meetings and online. They say they want the collective to work democratically and see themselves as “facilitators.”

It is all fun and laughter as Kayla Rakes (left) and Natalia Rodriguez (right) watch one of the first HIVE workshops unfold.

The collective is housed at the White Light Studio, an all-female work space in Southeast Austin. Link had met Haylie Raymond, one of the owners of White Light Studio, at a Boss Babes ATX networking event, and when they began looking for a studio, they reached out to her. HIVE hosts workshops the last Sunday of each month, which are taught by different female artists in the community who volunteer to teach on subjects they’re experienced in. Some of the future events include a workshop on creative writing and one on experimental film. On the first three Sundays of the month, they host open studio hours for artists to come work. “We want it to feel like a clubhouse, or like your art room in high school where you go eat lunch in and hang out,” Kaye says. Smaller and more informal workshops are also in the plans for future open studio times.

Kaye emphasizes that HIVE is not intended for only cisgendered women. It’s open to anyone identifying with the female experience, and if someone feels that it’s the right space for them, they are welcome. It’s not intended to be exclusive, rather, they want to satisfy the need of a safe-space for women to create.

Murphy Anne Carter (left) and Bronwyn Walls (right) look at their first figure drawings.

Some organizations, such as the Guerrilla Girls, are known for being outspoken about gender inequity in the art world, but even after 30 years of activism, the art world still seems divided. ARTnews published an infographic November 2015 showing the percentage of lots occupied in postwar and contemporary auctions by men and women over the past several years. In both 2014 and 2015, 92 percent of the lots were occupied by men. “Basically we just want to shine a light on all of these amazing women, when their light might be a little dimmed in the greater art world,” Kaye says.

One of the patrons at the most recent figure drawing workshop, Debra Hardy, found out about the collective through Link. She attended the first workshop in early February on zine making and says she enjoys the aspect of supporting fellow women in reaching their goals. “I think the more momentum we give these female empowering spaces, the more will pop up,” Hardy says.

Workshop co-leader, Clare Drummond, shows examples to the attendees.

Kaye says that one of the big factors for her when collaborating on the idea for HIVE was accessibility. HIVE workshops are free with suggested donations. The intention is to provide access to new creative endeavors, while eliminating worry about the cost. Another patron at the figure drawing workshop, Molly Coffman, wasn’t familiar with the collective before coming to the meeting and had just learned about the workshop through Facebook. “I wanted the opportunity to learn about figure drawing,” Coffman says. “It’s something I’ve never done before.”

In addition to accepting donations, HIVE plans to raise money through fundraisers. They are hosting their first fundraiser on April 2 at the Museum of Human Achievement. They plan to showcase some of the art made during workshops and are lining up several female-member bands to play. “We’re kind of hoping for it to organically grow and just see what happens,” Kaye says. “We want to let the people who are coming dictate the shape of what this turns into and reflect their needs.”