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Founders and Inventors: Women Who Created Our World

Call For Commissions:

Gather RI is seeking to commission Rhode Island artists to make portraits for the inaugural show, Founders & Inventors: Women Who Created Our World, that will happen in conjunction with the opening of our new facility. The Dirt Palace has been enlisted to help administer the artist selection process and to oversee commissions.


Artists interested in submitting a proposal to be considered for a portrait commission are asked to read this information prior to applying.

Who We Are:

Gather RI is a new, not-for-profit, women’s empowerment center being built in Providence, Rhode Island. Gather RI’s mission is to help women and non-cis people thrive in both civic and professional realms. Gather’s portrait gallery and biographical library of notable women (including trans women) will serve as an inspirational and educational resource for the public.  Gather RI’s inaugural portrait show will be, ‘Founders & Inventors - Women Who Created Our World’. 


The Dirt Palace is a feminist artist-run space project founded in 2000 in an abandoned library building in the commercial corridor of Olneyville in Providence, RI. The Dirt Palace has grown to include two facilities, and multiple residency and exhibition programs. The Dirt Palace is trans-inclusive, strives to be accountable, and works intersectionally. The Dirt Palace has commissioned hundreds of works by local and national artists over the years, including those created during the renovation of the Wedding Cake House.

The application is linked at the bottom of the page. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to be in touch: please send an email to



April 25th - Applications due

End of May  - Applicants notified

Feb 1st 2025 - Commissions completed 

What the Opportunity Is:


  • Gather will commission artists to create portraits for their inaugural exhibition "Founders and Inventors: Women Who Created Our World" The list of individuals whose portraits will be commissioned can be found below.

  • Gather RI will exhibit the portraits in their inaugural exhibition (in early 2025), retain the work in its collection for use in future brick and mortar exhibitions, and publish a digital image of the work in its permanent online exhibit. Gather RI will also require a permanent, exclusive option to purchase reproduction rights for selected works for merch to support the organization.

  • Commission stipends will range from $500 - $2000 depending on the scale, scope and medium of the work. Artists are asked to include pricing with their proposal. 

  • Artists will work with the curatorial team on the design process. Once selected, artists will propose 3 sketches/layouts for the finished work. After a direction for the project is approved, the curatorial team will conduct studio visits and check-ins. Finished commissions will be delivered between December 1st 2024 and February 1st, 2025.  The work will be on display between March 1st 2025 and November 1st 2025, it will then move to Gather’s permanent collection. 


Portrait Commission List

  1. Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink: Co-author Title IX

  2. Patricia Bath: Founded university ophthalmology depts; invented way to remove cataracts; Founded Institute for Prevention of Blindness

  3. Alice H. Parker: Inventor of gas heating furnace & individually controlled air ducts (no source photographs known)

  4. Suzanne Shank: Co-founder, President & CEO, Siebert Williams Shank & Co.

  5. Zhou Qunfei: Founder Lens Technology (phone Touchscreens)

  6. Squaw Princess Red Wing: Founder Tomaquag Museum

  7. Sherry Pocknet: Founder & Chef, Sly Fox Too, won James Beard Award in 2023

  8. Olive Ann Beech: Co-founder Beech Aircraft

  9. Maria Goeppert-Mayer: Created the groundwork for the development of nuclear physics. Won Nobel Prize

  10. Martha Matilda Harper: Invented the idea of retail franchising

  11. Martine Rothblatt: Founded multiple companies (United Therapeutics, Sirius XM, etc).

  12. Vesta Stoudt: Inventor of duct tape 

  13. Radia Perlman: Inventor STP for Internet

  14. Harriet W. R. Strong: Inventor dam concepts, led to Hoover Dam & turning CA into agricultural bonanza area

  15. Louise Brigham: Invented ready-to-assemble furniture, recycled material furniture

  16. Grace Hopper: Helped create COBOL, navy rear admiral, "first hacker in history"

  17. Edith Nourse Rogers: Helped draft and co-sponsor the GI Bill

  18. Mary Engle Pennington: Developed ways to keep perishable food fresh

  19. Jeanne Villepreux-Power: Invented the aquarium

  20. Idelisa Bonnelly de Calventi: Founder world's first humpback whale sanctuary, and multiple Dominican marine life orgs. Won UN award.

  21. Anne Crawford Acheson & Elinor Jessie Marie Halléco: Inventors of plaster casts

  22. Yvonne Brill: Inventor Rocket fuel used by most satellite launches

  23. Marthe Distel: Founder Le Cordon Blue; publisher magazine

  24. Bertha Benz: Inventor brake pads, early investor, field tester, and publicist Benz (now Mercedes Benz)

  25. Margarete Steiff: Founded Steiff (toy stuffed animals) & invented the teddy bear with movable limbs

  26. Edie Windsor: Sued to marry her partner; legal victory paved way for same sex marriage in the US

  27. Gertrude I. Johnson & Mary T. Wales: Founded Johnson & Wales

  28. Marta Martinez: Founder: Nuestras Raíces: Latino Oral Histories of Rhode Island (database, book, theatrical production); Founder Rhode Island Latino Arts

  29. Yolanda Serrano: Launched first needle exchange program in US, in NYC

  30. Fatima al-Fihri: Founded a mosque that became the oldest university in the world that's still going and inspired the creation of universities in other parts of the world (Oxford, etc) (no source photographs known)




Q: Why founders and inventors as a theme & what was the process of selecting the women whose portraits will be commissioned?


A: Women who “started things” seemed like a natural place to launch! This exhibition is intended to be a jump off, and by no means the end-all-be-all. Part of our intention with this gallery is to showcase a wide range of contributions made by women who created things in the world that affect our lives today in Rhode Island. Gather leadership selected and vetted the list. The list you see is only of the women whose portraits will be commissioned as artist's works. A number of other founders will also be highlighted in the exhibition, however their portraits will be presented as photographs.


Q: Can I choose who I would like to create a portrait of?

A: As part of the application process we ask, “Who from the list of subjects are you most interested in doing a portrait of and why?”  We encourage artists to list their top five portrait subjects.  It is unlikely that every artist who we commission will be chosen to portray their first choice subject. We will commission a portrait of every subject on the list. 


Q: What if I just want to do a portrait of one person from the list of subjects, and am not interested in doing a portrait of anyone else?

A: Please note this in your application. While we’re eager to work with artists who are excited about specific portraits, flexibility will increase artists chances of being chosen for a commission. 


Q: Can the work be any size?

A: No. There are some restrictions on this based on the realities of the exhibition space. We’re imagining the smallest works in the 8” x 12” range, and largest in the 30”x40” range. That said, if an artist has an incredible concept that requires thinking outside of these prescribed size boxes, we’ll listen to it. We know that artists will bring ideas to the table that we can not imagine at this point. We are looking for the majority of works to be smaller to mid-sized and proposals offering some flexibility in regards to scale will be looked upon favorably. 


Q: What mediums can I use?

A: Oil paint, acrylic, embroidery, collage, watercolor, charcoal, pastel, pencils, glitter, sequins, printmaking, ink - in short any two dimensional material. 


Q: How do you define portraiture? 

A: While portraiture is not a neatly defined genre, we are interested in commissioning works that are more or less representational and figurative. That said, some stylization and abstraction can be great. We’re interested in working with artists because we believe deeply that something unique and special is possible when a creative person sets out to represent not just the physical likeness, but also the personality or ideas associated with a subject. 


Given that this is a feminist exhibit, Gather RI has an expectation that portraits will be focused on showing their subject first and foremost as an honored and inspirational person, with the dignity and power one would give a distinguished person. This stands in contrast to much of the portraiture of women over the course of art history, where women are often  depicted passively or as an object of beauty. 


Q: What is the selection process?

A: Commissions will be selected by a panel that includes arts professionals and feminist scholars. The panel will be identified after the selections have been made public. 


Q: What is the commission process timeline? 

A: (all dates in 2024)

Applications due: April 25th 

Applicants notified: May 15th

Project discussions: May 15th-June 15th

Artist agreements signed: June 15th 

Studio visits: July 1st - Nov 1st

Final pieces delivered: Between Dec 1st 2024 & Feb 1st 2025


Q: Do I have to be a woman, nonbinary, gender fluid or intersex person to apply?

A: No, we are interested in all feminist artists who are invested in shining a light on women’s accomplishments. 


Q: Do you accept applications from students?

A: Yes! 


Q: Can I get feedback on my application?

A: Sorry, we are not able to provide feedback on submissions to applicants.


Q: What are the requirements in terms of image rights?

A: Gather RI will require a permanent, exclusive option to purchase reproduction rights for selected works for merch to support the organization. 


Q: Can Gather sell my piece? 

A: Our intention is to build a collection that will be on display in this space, online and others over time. Our intention is to lend works to other institutions, but not to sell artwork. Our goal is to  build a permanent collection and resource that will be inspiring for others going into the future. 


Q: Will this piece be shown again? 

A: We certainly hope so! Gather RI will do their best to notify artists when their work is displayed at Gather RI in the future or lent to other institutions for exhibition. 


Q: Are there visual materials like photographs in the public domain to base portraits on for all of the subjects? 

A: For all but two of the subjects there are googable photographs to work with. Presenting the source materials that you plan to work with will be part of the “project discussion” phase. Artists are not required to have done research into source material at the time of their application.


Q: If the subject is still living, will I be expected to communicate with the subject? Will I be “cold calling” them, or will Gather have laid some of the foundation? 

A: Subjects that may require communication are notated on the list of subjects with an *(asterisk). Gather RI will facilitate all communications. 


Q: I live in Seekonk, can I not apply?

A: If an artist has strong ties to RI and lives in a place that is close enough to the border that they would be considered part of the local community, they are encouraged to apply.

We’ve included the application of the questions below, in case you want to cut & paste them into a doc and write out answers before putting them into the application form. For clarity ALL applications must be submitted through the Submittable website via the blue link above.  Responses sent by email, carrier pigeon, or pony express won’t find their way into the pile.






Acceptable file types: .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .svg, .tif, .tiff
Work Samples: Please upload or link to five works that demonstrate your approach to portraiture or depicting human subjects.
We understand that portraiture is a very specific art form, and this call is not limited to artists who exclusively work in this mode, however we do require examples of depictions of human faces in order to be considered for this commission. This could be a detail from a drawing, painting or print with many other compositional elements. If this is the case, please provide the full image, as well as a detail of the portrait-like element.
Images should be jpegs at least (1 MB) and no bigger than (5MB).
Please give info about your work samples. (100 words max)
Some examples
Image 1, pastel 8"x10"
Image 2 , public mural, 14' x 28'
Image 3, oil paint on canvas, 30" x 24

Subject(s) that you would like to create a portrait of. Please see list below of the Founders & Inventors who we will be commissioning portraits of. We urge you to consider a few possibilities. Please list your top 5 choices and say a few words about what makes you well suited to represent them. Was something that they did in their career impactful in your life today? Do you share cultural touch points or heritage? Are you interested in the field that they work(ed) in. This can be very brief, but if you want to elaborate, you’ve got up to 500 words (max)
200 words max



Please describe the media and approach that you imagine taking for this project. (See examples below.) Include information about scale to the best of your ability at this time. We recognize that some artists may envision a different media or approach for different subjects from the list of founders and inventors. Please describe what your approach would be for your first pick. There will be other opportunities to further solidify medium and approach down the line during the selection process. Proposing one medium and approach is fine.



  1. I will work with oil paint on a rectangular canvas that is approximately 12x16”. The subject will be presented from the waist up. She will be facing forward, though her head will have a slight twist.

  2. I will construct a 3 color block print of the subject in their office. This will be a work on paper BFK Rives Printmaking Paper. The paper will be approximately 17x23” and the image will be about 15x21”. It will depict the subject in her work environment and foreground notable details of this space that I will have researched.

  3. I am imagining this project being implemented using a combination of watercolor and collage. I am interested in constructing five small works of the subject at different key phases of her career path. Each will be approximately 6x8” and I imagine them being presented in a salon-style cluster.


Please provide a price for the work that you are proposing. We are looking to commission works for between $500 and $2000 dollars. If you are concerned about this budget being inadequate for your vision, please be in touch, we may be able to help you simplify or scale down. In some rare instances we may be able to approve slightly larger budgets, but please do not list a price larger than $2,000 unless you have spoken with us about this and received approval. (50 words max)


Please note that there are design and approval components involved with this process.

Selected artists will be required to submit composition sketches before beginning their portrait. Please see the FAQ for detailed information on the commission process and price your project with these components in mind. 



REFERENCE (optional)

If you’ve worked on commissions before and would like to include a reference, use this space here, Please include a name and best contact information. (50 characters max)


We recognize that the lived experiences and artistic practices of applicants are nuanced. While race, gender, class, and many other distinctions are socially constructed, they have real impacts on the way artists are able to navigate the world. In alignment with our organization’s core values, the collection of demographic information helps us better understand the lived experience of our artistic eco-system. 



Limit: 50 characters




Limit 200 words





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