O Pioneers!

The Austin Arts Hall of Fame Class of 2004 led the way to culture

O Pioneers!

Chris Cowden

When Chris Cowden joined Women & Their Work as director, the organization didn't have an exhibition space, just a one-room office over a drug store. Six weeks after signing on, Cowden gave birth to her first child. Three months later, the Austin economy went south in the real estate bust. At that point, she had more than enough cause to bail on the small nonprofit, but 18 years later, she's still there, and her commitment has transformed the organization and the face of the Austin arts community. Under her leadership, W&TW not only survived the Eighties bust but managed to land its first gallery space – a humble spot on East Fifth – and grow, drawing statewide attention to art created by women (not an easy thing in Texas). She has steered W&TW through a succession of spaces to its current 2,000-square-foot home on Lavaca, where it hosts 50 events a year and has now served more than 1,700 artists in all creative disciplines.

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Chris Cowden

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