Artist Collectives and Communities of Practice

Installation view, Unfinished Business: Perspectives on art and feminism. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2017. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

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Key Idea

 A ‘collective’ describes a group of people who are motivated by a common issue, or who work together to achieve a common goal. Throughout art history, artists have chosen to work together, forming communities or artist collectives that range in size from just a few people to many thousands of people. Though not all artist collectives are politically motivated, in critical moments, groups of like-minded artists have formed feminist artist collectives, in an effort to address issues related to inequalities associated with age, sex, gender, class or race.

A number of different feminist artist collectives are represented in Unfinished Business. Right Now! 2017 by LEVEL – a group of four artists based in Brisbane – is a survey with questions linked to Australian legislative acts concerning human rights, age, race, disability and sex discrimination. This participatory artwork tackles one of the principles of contemporary feminism – to achieve equality for all people. By filling out the survey and reading through the information in the accompanying pamphlet, participants of this artwork gain an awareness of issues such as accessibility, safety, social mobility and cultural representation, as they relate to the experiences of minority groups; particularly women, queer, trans and gender non-binary people, asylum seekers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and children. This artwork reminds us that, despite living in a relatively progressive country like Australia, many people continue to experience systemic discrimination.

Ali Gumillya Baker and Natalie Harkin are members of the Unbound Collective, a group of Indigenous artists which also includes Simone Ulalka Tur and Faye Rosas Blanch. Through art, performance, poetry, music and storytelling, members of the Unbound Collective seek to promote ancestral memory and stories and the passing of knowledge between generations, to question colonial histories and critique the ‘colonial gaze’, and to explore ideas of freedom and expressions of sovereignty as First Nations women and artists.[1]

Eugenia Lim and Clare Rae both belong to a feminist artist collective called Art/Mums. This loosely formed collective of artists endeavour to reconcile the sometimes competing responsibilities of motherhood with a desire to maintain a creative art practice. Members of this group meet to discuss issues related an art world that is not always supportive of the realities associated with raising children.[2] The members of Art/Mums often exhibit together and support one another emotionally and artistically, with each artist also maintaining an independent practice.

Some independent artists engage with different groups of people, to create their artworks. The desire to engage with members of the wider community, highlight issues that affect members of these communities or illuminate untold stories, leads artists to conceptualise and facilitate artworks that take the form of social events, community arts projects or places where people gather, meet and talk. Foregrounding the importance of skill sharing, inclusivity, intergenerational exchange, dialogue and discussion is central to many feminist artists’ practices.

Key Definitions

Community: The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.[3]

Collective: A cooperative enterprise.[4]

Participatory Art: Participatory art is a term that describes a form of art that directly engages the audience in the creative process so that they become participants in the event.[5]

Historical Touchpoints

Cover of Womanhouse catalogue 1972. From left: Miriam Schapiro, Judy Chicago. Photograph: Though the Flower Archives at Penn State University Archives
Suzanne Lacy, The Crystal Quilt 1985–7. © The artist. Photograph: Gus Gustafson


  • What kinds of conversations do you have around your kitchen table? List some of key topics that are discussed.
  • Working together can allow groups of people to achieve things that would be hard for an individual to achieve alone. Think of a time when you have worked with other people. Was it easy or were there challenges in working together? Why is this, do you think?
  • Research different feminist artist collectives. What issues are these collectives primarily concerned with? If you had to create your own feminist artist collective with some of your peers, what issues might you try and address as a group? What form would the artworks you make in response these issues take?


[1] ‘About Unbound’, Flinders University.

[2] ‘MUM’ Exhibition Catalogue: “MUM” at Stockroom Gallery.



[5] ‘Participatory Art’, Tate.

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