Carnegie Museum of Natural History

For more information, contact: Leigh Kish
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
412.622.3361 (0), 412.526.8587 (C)

September 25, 2012


Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities at Carnegie Museum of Natural History
October 6, 2012–May 12, 2013

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania… From Africa to Asia to the Americas, female artisans are creating grassroots cooperatives to reach new markets, raise income, and transform lives. On view at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, October 6, 2012–May 12, 2013, Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities explores the work of these cooperative enterprises in ten countries through video, stunning large-scale photographs, and handmade traditional arts. Though the featured cooperatives are continents apart and driven by different motivations—preservation of a dying heritage, environmental sustenance, a safe haven from violence—the women involved in each project work collaboratively to produce, manage, and market their products, and decide how to distribute or invest revenues to support their families and communities. The cooperatives featured are from Rwanda, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, Morocco, India, Nepal, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bolivia, and Peru.

Throughout the exhibition, visitors see examples of a number of handmade traditional crafts, including embroidered story cloths, hand-dyed baskets, beaded neck collars, wool weavings, bromeliad bags, and folk paintings. An additional thirty items—purchased in 2012 by Carnegie Museum of Natural History from the cooperatives and accessioned into the museum’s anthropology collection—supplement the exhibition and only appear while Empowering Women is in Pittsburgh.

This exhibition has been organized by the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, NM. It is sponsored locally by Huntington Bank and the YWCA. Empowering Women is a project of the Center for World Cultures at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Opening Events
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Free with museum admission

10 a.m.–5 p.m.        Craft-making demonstration by Center for Traditional Weaving (Cusco, Peru)
1 p.m.                       Let's Talk About This!: Women Folk Artists Speak Out for Social Change Through Their Arts
Guest Lecture, Dr. Suzanne Seriff, Curator of Empowering Women
1–4 p.m.                  Craft-making activities for children

Additional Programming
In support of Empowering Women, a robust schedule of programming, featuring demonstrations and discussions with local, national, and international women artisans, is available throughout the run of the exhibition.

Demonstrations by local and international cooperatives                  
Free with museum admission
Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Thursday, 4–7 p.m.
Sunday, 1–5 p.m.*
*Unless otherwise noted

Date Demonstration 
October 7–October 14, 2012Center for Traditional Weaving (Cusco, Peru)
October 18, 2012Local women’s cooperative
November 8, 2012Local artist cooperative: Fiberarts Guild, Inc.
November 14–November 18, 2012
*November 15: 1–4, 5–7 p.m.
Cherokee cooperative Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc.
December 13, 2012Local women’s cooperative: Ujamaa Collective
January 10, 2013Local women’s cooperative
February 21, 2013Local women’s cooperative
March 9, 2013, 1–4 p.m.Knit the Bridge Project, Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh
April 27, 2013, 1–4 p.m.Elizabeth Fortunato, Pittsburgh Glass Center & Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse
May 11, 2013, time TBD

Audra Auzry, environmental artist and designer, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; Karen Mosholder, beekeeper, Bumbleberry Farms demonstrating making lip balm with honey

See how some of the works in the exhibition are created. Meet the inspiring women from the Empowering Women exhibition, along with female artisans from local cooperatives. Find out how the cooperatives have impacted daily life as the women demonstrate their craft.

The Guerrilla Girls: What are museums for? 

March 20, 2013
7–8 p.m.: performance in Carnegie Lecture Hall
5–9 p.m.: Empowering Women exhibition remains open for attendees
$15 non-Members, $12 Members, $10 college students with ID
Tickets required; limited seating; call 412.622.3288
Co-sponsored by Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History

The Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of feminists fighting sexism in the art world, stage a multimedia performance in full jungle regalia. The artists illustrate their history of creating posters, books, and actions to expose discrimination in areas including art, film, and politics. Carnegie Museum of Art Director Lynn Zelevansky engages in a dynamic exchange of ideas with The Guerrilla Girls about the evolving role of women in the art world.

Empowering Pittsburgh: Engendering Development Colloquium and Community & Cooperative Fair

April 13, 2013 

Join us on this special day to meet hear thought-provoking discussions around issues facing women world-wide. Then, meet the movers and shakers advocating for change in areas of sustainability, fair trade, and social justice in Pittsburgh. Participate in hands-on activities located throughout the museum and visit the exhibition Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities.

Engendering Development Colloquium
9 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
$20 for non-Members, including students ($7 for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Members); includes same-day museum admission
Registration required; check back for details

Presented by Carnegie Museum of Natural History and inspired by the exhibition Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities, this half-day colloquium is a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue around international women’s issues with local scholars, organizations and entrepreneurs.

Community & Cooperative Fair
1–5 p.m.
Free with museum admission; no registration required

Local organizations are stationed throughout the museum, leading hands-on activities, offering performances, and speaking with museum visitors on a range of topics, from fair trade practices to public health to gender equality.

School Programs 

Guided Tours
60 minutes
$9/child (1 chaperone free for every 10 children)

Compare and contrast craft materials, techniques, and social significance across diverse ancient and contemporary cultures. Discuss themes such as changing social status of women and family roles as you explore Empowering Women and related permanent exhibition halls. See the Book your Group Visit page for contact and registration information.

Craft Workshop
2.5 hours
$14/child (1 chaperone free for every 10 children)
Includes materials fee for take-home craft

Explore Empowering Women and Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians and try your own hand at making a coil basket to take home. Through hands-on experimentation with craft techniques, delve into the science and culture of craft-making. Share your thoughts and hear the perspectives of others around themes such as changing social status of women, labor issues, and family roles. Visit the Classes page for registration information.

Programming is as of September 2012 and subject to change. A full schedule of programs and events is available on the website at

Center for World Cultures
Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Center for World Cultures is devoted to enhancing understanding of the richness and variety of cultural diversity around the world and the relationship between humans and their environment. A major focus for the Center’s researchers and educators is the search for new approaches to studying and sharing the museum’s archaeological and ethnographic collections. The Center also produces exhibitions, public programs, and publications that celebrate the diversity of cultures around the world. The Center for World Cultures was launched in December 2011 and is under the direction of Sandra Olsen.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,