For the third consecutive year, Smithsonian American Art Museum has published a series of digital comics drawn by Ringling College of Art and Design students called, Drawn to Art: Ten Tales of Inspiring Women Artists. The comics celebrate women artists represented in the museum’s permanent collection. The ongoing series is part of a partnership between the SAAM and the College’s INDEX program—Industry Experience at Ringling College.
The trailblazing artists featured in the 2023 series are Laura Aquilar, Tanya Aguiñiga, Emma Amos, Chitra Ganesh, Jimenez Underwood, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Wendy Red Star, Miriam Schapiro, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Lilly Martin Spencer. Inspired by graphic novels and web comics, these short takes on artists’ lives were drawn by 10 student-illustrators from the College. The participating illustrators are Sky Chandler ’25, Illustration; Ati Gor ’24, Illustration; Stephanie Hunton ’24, Illustration; Elena May binti Saini Jeffery ’24, Illustration; Zahra Merchant ’25, Illustration; Irene Pae ’24, Illustration; Ana Parra ’25, Illustration; Sami Sulzer ’24, Illustration; Tyler Tjaden ’25, Illustration; and Catherine Vo ’25, Illustration.
A goal of the project is to provide middle school-age readers, and art lovers of any age, with a beautifully illustrated and age-appropriate opportunity to identify with the struggles and triumphs of artists, to see themselves reflected and to draw strength from that visibility. “Drawn to Art” supports the museum’s commitment to educational opportunities by providing valuable professional experience for Ringling student artists who learn to work collaboratively, meet deadlines, and address formatting and accessibility requirements.
The digital-first series debuted in 2021. The first series featured the stories of Berenice Abbott, Anni Albers, Romaine Brooks, Maria Oakey Dewing, Carmen Herrera, Corita Kent, Edmonia Lewis, Kay Sekimachi, Alma Thomas, and Mickalene Thomas. The second edition from 2022 featured artists Judy Baca, Tiffany Chung, Sanya Clark, Sarah Goodridge, Ester Hernandez, Loïs Mailou Jones, Juane Quick-To-See Smith, Nellie Mae Rowe, Kay Walkingstick, and Augusta Savage. All 30 comics can be seen on the museum’s website.
“Seeing the stories of women artists made central in this creative project from the nation’s preeminent museum of American art gives girls and women a chance to see themselves represented and to draw inspiration from these shared experiences,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The ‘Drawn to Art’ project captures wonderfully SAAM’s role, whether in person or online, as a place that creates connection, wonder and understanding.”
Drawn to Art was made in collaboration with the College’s INDEX (Industry Experience) program. INDEX is an experiential education initiative that provides students with professional experience prior to graduation by connecting them with leading brands and clients to develop creative solutions to business challenges.