There were no women on the faculty when Helen Redman went to the University of Colorado in the early '70s as a graduate student in art. Virginia Maitland, who was living with an art instructor, found herself assigned the invisible ranking of "faculty wife." Other women artists were struggling to sculpt or paint while taking care of their families and raising children. Amid the heady politics of the time, these women gave birth to Front Range Women in the Arts in 1974. Their exhibits leavened serious purpose with humorous iconoclasm, such as 1978's Portrait of the Woman as a Young Artist
, which was promoted by a poster showing a naked man holding a baby. In 1979 they helped organize Colorado Women in the Arts month; they also toured their work through Colorado and other states and created exchange programs with women artists around the country. The structure was loose, meetings were often suffused with wine and sometimes tears, members came and went. Yet the group helped change the status of women in art. Three years ago, several members were celebrating the sixtieth birthday of one of the founders, Sally Elliott. The millennium was approaching, and Front Range Women in the Arts members were coming up on 25 years of art-making and activism. It was time for a reunion. Elbows and Tea Leaves: Front Range Women in the Visual Arts (1974-2000)
will show at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art through August 28. "What we did was against the current," Redman says, "against traditional training. And there's a woman heading the CU art department now."