Dear Sister Artist

Activating Feminist Art Letters and Ephemera in the Archive


  • Kathy Michelle Carbone University of California, Los Angeles



The 1970s Feminist Art movement continues to serve as fertile ground for contemporary feminist inquiry, knowledge sharing, and art practice. The CalArts Feminist Art Program (1971–1975) played an influential role in this movement and today, traces of the Feminist Art Program reside in the CalArts Institute Archives’ Feminist Art Materials Collection. Through a series of short interrelated archives stories, this paper explores some of the ways in which women responded to and engaged the Collection, especially a series of letters, for feminist projects at CalArts and the Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths, University of London over the period of one year (2017–2018). The paper contemplates the archive as a conduit and locus for current day feminist identifications, meaning-making, exchange, and resistance and argues that activating and sharing—caring for—the archive’s feminist art histories is a crucial thing to be done: it is feminism-in-action that not only keeps this work on the table but it can also give strength and definition to being a feminist and an artist.

Pre-print first published online 12/05/2020

Author Biography

Kathy Michelle Carbone, University of California, Los Angeles

Kathy Carbone is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) working on the Refugees Rights in Records (R3) Initiative. She is also an independent archivist and the Project Director, archivist, and PI of The Amplification Project: Digital Archive for Forced Migration, Contemporary Art, and Action. Prior to joining UCLA, she was the Institute Archivist and Performing Arts Librarian for over a decade at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and a modern dancer and choreographer for more than 20 years. Carbone holds a Ph.D. in Information Studies from UCLA, an MLIS from Kent State University, an MA in Dance and Music and a BFA in Dance from Ohio University. Carbone’s research, teaching, and practice broadly focus on intersections between archives, contemporary art, and activism, with particular emphasis on documenting and preserving art practice driven by human rights and social justice agendas and using archives as strategies and tools for expressive resistance and community building.