This collection documents the activities of FOCUS: Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts, a city-wide arts program that occurred in April and May of 1974. The records date from 1972 to 1975, and include meeting minutes from various FOCUS committees, outreach and advertising documents, correspondence, and records of the grant application process. Despite the relatively brief existence of the initiative, the deliberate documentation of FOCUS programs by internal committees makes this collection an especially comprehensive representation of the group’s activities. Of particular interest are the meeting minutes which document internal debates about which artists should be invited to exhibit their work and who to ask to serve on the Advisory Board and other committees. Researchers may also be interested in the records which document the grant application process and the Document Committee files that provide a look into how the FOCUS volunteers chose to preserve and represent their endeavors.
The records are arranged into three series: “I. General files,” “II. Committee records,” and “III. Photographs and audio/visual materials.”
The “I. General files” series comprises the majority of the collection and includes correspondence, some financial records such as budgets, fundraising materials, exhibition planning materials and event documentation, as well as some clippings mentioning FOCUS activities and interests. Additionally, the grant writing and application processes with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts are particularly well represented in this series: materials include various notes, drafts, correspondence, grant applications, grant award packages and follow-up grant applications and proposals. Also of interest are the records related to the feminist exhibition held at the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum in 1974, which include extensive information about participating artists’ biographies and artwork, marketing posters and flyers, and written communication between the Civic Center and FOCUS committees. Many of the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum files contain information about the Civic Center’s banning and censorship of artist Judith Bernstein from the exhibition and the subsequent protest and backlash from FOCUS and the local art community. The series dates from 1972 to 1975 and is arranged in alphabetical order by subject.
The “II. Committee records” series contains documentation of the major committees involved in FOCUS’s activities and initiatives, including the Advisory Board, the Finance Committee, the Public Relations Committee and the Program Committee. In particular, the Documentation Committee, created to document the activities of FOCUS through reports and publications, exemplifies the value placed on the self-documentation of its activities by the organization. As such, this series, along with the rest of the collection, would appeal to those interested in grassroots community initiatives, feminist art movements, non-profit collaborative activities and local Philadelphia history. Also of particular interest are the minutes for planning meetings held by several committees; these document the lively internal debates and discussions concerning matters such as selection of artists for involvement in exhibitions and events, funding sources and recruiting others to fulfill leadership roles within the organization. The series is arranged in alphabetical order by committee name and dates from 1973 to 1975.
The “III. Photographs and audio/visual materials” is a small series containing some photographs, contact sheets and slides as well as a few audio recordings on 33mm tapes and reel to reel magnetic tape. The photographs contain images of committee meetings, award ceremonies, panel events and exhibitions, while the audio recordings are of public service announcements produced by FOCUS as well as recordings of the various events sponsored by the FOCUS initiative. Researchers should note that the Philadelphia Civic Center Museum files in series “I. General files” also contain photographs, mostly of exhibitions and various artists and their work. The series dates from 1973 to circa 1974 and is arranged in alphabetical order by subject or media type.