Count Her In: Project Contemporary Artspace hosts 24th Annual International Women’s Day Exhibition

On Saturday night, March 9, Project Contemporary Artspace opened its 24th Annual International Women’s Day Exhibition.

This year the exhibition includes the work of 36 artists who live in the Illawarra. These works involve sculpture, photography, printmaking, textiles, drawing, digital media, ceramics, glassworks, painting and more.

“It’s a really diverse group of artists who come together to work together in this. There’s both emerging artists and very established artists with different points of view, all sorts of subject matter,” exhibition coordinator Sue Bessell said.

Local artists such as Jen Saunders, Melissa Ritchie and T.S. Zaracostas exhibited work at the gallery. Feminist Illawarra artist Jack Draper’s memorial to the 64 women murdered by their partners in 2023 stood out in the centre of the gallery.

The night also included musical performances by Sound of KoKo (Rhea Mangles and Kachina Lewis) and local poets Adara Enthaler and Jamilla.

Wollongong’s 2024 Citizen of the Year Dr Aunty Barbara Nicholson opened the exhibition.

“She’s an exceptional leader, teacher, poet, storyteller and advocate,” Sue said.

“She also works with disadvantaged people. We’re so lucky to have her come along on the night and open the exhibition.”

Noting the work of Jen Saunders and Jack Draper, Dr Nicholson said, “Our mothers and grandmothers taught us well. Let us continue the fight.”

The UN theme for 2024’s International Women’s Day is ‘Count Her In: Accelerating gender equality through economic empowerment’.

“There’s progress to be made so that women may earn and learn and lead equally – and also have equal access to education and employment pathways. We can see that with that recent news report about the gender pay gaps,” Sue said.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s latest report, Australia’s gender pay gap is at 19%. Meaning that over the course of a year, the median of what a woman is paid is $18,461 less than the median of what a man is paid.  

“I was so burned out,” Sue said. “I thought we were better than that. You think things are going really well and then actually, we’ve still got a long, long way to go.”

Saturday’s exhibition welcomed a diverse and colourful crowd. Local artists and art-lovers enjoyed vibrant conversation along with finger food and refreshments available for a gold coin donation to local homelessness services.

“The great thing about these sort of events is that it really does bring people together. This exhibition is always a great celebration of women’s cultural contribution and other contributions to our community.”

The exhibition will run until March 24. Visitors are welcome from 10am-5pm on weekdays and 11am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays at Project Contemporary Artspace, 255 Keira Street, Wollongong.