The Scoop: The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is a beloved rallying point for women in the arts community, and it has become a popular date spot for DC couples looking to broaden their horizons. Since 1987, NMWA has fought for gender equality in the art world by featuring thousands of women painters, sculptures, photographers, and other artists in its galleries and exhibitions. NMWA houses a collection of over 5,500 works of art created by talented women throughout history.
Male voices and male perspectives have dominated the arts scene for generations, and if you doubt that, just try to name five women artists. Most people have heard of Picasso, Monet, and Banksy, but they don’t know anything about Mary Cassatt, Clara Peeters, or Joana Vasconcelos.
You may find some of these creative women in mainstream museums, but they are only part of the story — at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, they are the main feature.
Since it opened in April 1987, NMWA has cultivated a thought-provoking space where women are more than muses — they’re artists in their own right.
As a museum focused on female empowerment and representation, NMWA provides a public platform where women are in the spotlight and can share their ideas without being overshadowed.
“The truth is that women have never been treated equally in the art world, and today they remain dramatically underrepresented and undervalued in museums, galleries, and auction houses,” says Emma Filar, Marketing and Communications Manager. “This imbalance goes well beyond the art world, of course. But art plays a vital role in exploring issues of gender in society.”
To date, NMWA is the only major museum that focuses solely on championing women in the arts. The museum inspires discussion and debate with its diverse collections, exhibitions, programs, and digital content, and that makes it a popular date spot for couples who want to go off the beaten path and discover something new.
The museum’s collection includes over 5,500 works created by more than 1,000 women. The galleries provide an inclusive rewrite of art history by featuring artists from the 16th century all the way to the modern day.
According to the website, “NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement, and social change.”
Art in the Galleries Spark Conversations & Connections
In the 1970s, a married couple started a women-focused art collection that eventually became the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband Wallace F. Holladay were on vacation in Europe when they saw a 17th-century still life by Flemish painter Clara Peeters. The couple wanted to learn more about the artist and perhaps acquire more of her works, but they found, to their dismay, that history had largely overlooked this woman painter.
The Holladays couldn’t change the history books, but they wanted to do their part to recognize women in the art world, so they began seeking works by women artists. This became the foundation for NMWA.
The museum now showcases artwork created by women throughout history. Its current holdings include the works of Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Amy Sherald, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun.
People of all ages are welcome to visit and see what the world’s only museum dedicated to women artists has to offer. NMWA is located within walking distance of three Metro lines, and it is surrounded by coffee shops and restaurants, so it’s a natural daytime date activity. Couples can take a trip to the museum and explore galleries full of conversation starters.
The NMWA team is small but passionate about their work. The museum has a 45-person team that includes educators, curators, marketers, program leaders, librarians, and researchers. These diverse individuals pool their talents to promote gender equity in the arts.
“We regularly rotate our collection to spark new thematic connections,” said Emma. “We recently underwent a major reinstallation with an extensive array of paintings, photographs, and sculptures, including recent acquisitions, rarely exhibited works, and familiar favorites.”
The new installation features a diverse range of current and classic artwork. It’s organized by six themes — Family Matters, Roots to Routes, Rebels with a Cause, Built to Order, Space Explorers, and the Great Outdoors.
NMWA is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission costs $8 for students and seniors, $10 for adults, and is free for NMWA members and anyone under 18 years old. Admission is free on Community Days, which occur on the first Sunday of every month.
Rotating Exhibits & Events Bring in the Crowds
The National Museum of Women in the Arts has created a robust reputation in the DC area, and many tourists and locals seek it out on their days off, particularly on the first Sundays of the month when admission is free.
On the weekends, NMWA often holds Fierce Women tours, which highlights the stories of a diverse cast of women artists who blazed trails as artists, activists, and innovators. This gives art lovers another reason to grab a date or a friend and come to the museum. The expert-led tours offer good information and insights about breaking gender barriers in the art world, and it can inspire people to become advocates for women in the arts.
The museum educates the public with its hands-on workshops, conversations with artists, film series, weekly gallery talks, and guided tours. Its program and events calendar can offer a lot of engaging dating activities, especially for couples who love to learn together.
There are many different ways to explore NMWA alongside a date and spark new connections. For instance, you can attend Daily Gallery Experiences for free at 2 p.m. to join an animated discussion about a single work of art.
Couples with a thirst for knowledge may want to book a guided tour to get the inside scoop from a NMWA docent. Tours typically last about an hour and must be booked four weeks in advance of the visit.
If you prefer to explore the museum on your own, you can always come during normal operating hours and pick up a See For Yourself guide, which provides background information and fun facts about the artists and artworks on display.
The NMWA gives people a lot of freedom to explore and discover beautiful, interesting, and memorable works. For instance, its rotating exhibitions have featured art by women from around the world. From public art installations to black-and-white photograph collections, these exhibitions make a statement and provide a fresh perspective on a familiar art medium.
The 2020 exhibition lineup includes black-and-white photographs of Mexico, artistic paper creations, and large-scale prints created by some of the world’s most prominent women artists.
People Enjoy the Thoughtful, Inclusive & Unique Displays
Every day, couples ask themselves the age-old question: Where should we go for our date? And many times the answer involves the same restaurants or bars they’ve visited many times over. However, every now and then, couples crave something a little different or maybe they’d like a respite from the crowded and busy city streets.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts can entertain and enlighten couples who want to date outside the box. The museum offers a quiet place to have a discussion, ponder new ideas, and build common ground.
Hundreds of visitors have praised NMWA for providing an inclusive and positive space where even seasoned museum goers can gain a new perspective or frame of reference. NMWA currently has 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, and it has also earned 4.8 stars as a wedding venue on WeddingWire.
I cannot imagine a better place to have had our wedding and reception,” said a bride named Gabriella. “The venue is absolutely gorgeous. It was grand without feeling too big.”
“I was unsure how my husband would react to this museum,” April said after enjoying a date night at NMWA. “But we had a blast! The exhibits are beautiful and provocative.”
“This museum has made me feel very empowered,” another visitor said. “I am grateful for a museum like this providing a space for creative, smart, and thoughtful women to display art.”
As a female-driven museum, NMWA naturally attracts women, but you can also find boyfriends, husbands, brothers, fathers, guy friends, and other men walking through the galleries and engaging in discussions about art, pop culture, and equality. The space is open to ideas and perspectives, so it can be a wonderful place to listen and observe or to speak out and be heard.
“I love visiting the museum. The special exhibits can be challenging and are always pushing me to see more creativity,” said one woman about visiting the NMWA. “I always leave with a greater appreciation for the huge range of women’s experiences and expressions.”
NMWA is an Uplifting Place to Spend an Afternoon
The National Museum of Women in the Arts has championed women artists throughout history and developed a variety of programs about women artists that appeal to diverse audiences in DC. The museum makes a compelling case on behalf of gender equality and representation, and it can give couples a lot to discuss and think about on their date nights.
Whether you’re interested in a film screening or a special exhibition, you can visit NMWA to learn the names of many great women who have moved people, challenged the status quo, and created thought-provoking art.
“There is no other museum in the world where you can see only art by women, so this is a unique experience to share,” said Emma. “We expect to be the leader of gender equity in the arts and an inspirational location, both in person and online.”