What are your kids learning about gender in art class?

My six year old daughter goes to an excellent public school, but like most public schools, its resources are limited. I supplement my daughter’s education with art classes, music, and sports outside of school. She goes to art class at a place called 4Cats every week, and she loves it. I love it too. Every season’s session 4Cats picks one or two artists. The children study all about the artist, her life, and her work. Simultaneously, they create a painting in that artist’s style. Since starting 4Cats, my daughter has studied Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Vermeer, Lichtenstein, and Frida Kahlo. I asked her who her favorite is, so far. Her answer: Frida Kahlo, and then she asked me, “Why is there only one girl?”

Here’s Alice’s Frida Kahlo.


I was thinking that it’s great my daughter is getting exposure to art, but also how, and this reminds me of the post I just wrote on boarding school, the more “educated” we get, the more we can “learn” to internalize sexism. Before 4Cats, my daughter had no idea there were many more male artists than female artists. Now she knows. Will that limit how she evaluates her own potential? Her dreams? Her aspirations? Of course, I tell her she can be anything she wants to be. But words are just words. Showing a kid something, modeling it for her, is much more effective. That’s how kids really learn, and grown-ups for that matter. My words contradict what my daughter sees.

My temporary solution? Art class is today, and I’m going to ask 4Cats if they’ll consider featuring more female artists in the curriculum.

Update I spoke with my daughter’s teacher who is wonderful with these kids. She told me that in the 4Cats curriculum, there are only two female artists. 4Cats studios are all over the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Each franchise (the one we go to is in San Francisco) can select who they want use out of that established curriculum. The curriculum includes books for kids on the artist, apps, and games, along with other related activities. Alice’s teacher said that the 4Cats curriculum reflects who the important artists are and that’s why there are mostly males taught. I suggested a few females– Mary Cassatt, Artemisia Gentileshi, and Georgia O’Keefe. I love Kara Walker’s silhouettes, and I bet the kids would have so much fun making those.


The teacher told me she’d forward this blog to whoever is in charge of curriculum. So if this blog, gets to you, we love learning about art. Half of the kid population– and most likely, at least half of your students– are female. It would be great if 4Cats made an effort to educate and inspire kids by teaching them about female artists.

17 thoughts on “What are your kids learning about gender in art class?

  1. I think that 4cats is an amazing place for children to go and learn and enjoy life. Calling their motives into question with something as foolish as this is just silly. Its feminist hostility like this that makes people angry. Just lighten up lady.

    • Hi Frank,

      I don’t think 4Cats has evil motives. My daughter has been taking art class at 4Cats for a year there and continues to. Her teacher is great and my daughter is making fantastic art. I wish that the curriculum included more female artists. It makes me sad to see a classroom of kids learning about mostly males. I wish 4Cats would think more about gender when it creates curriculum.


  2. Mallory, it’s great that you offer female Artist Focus classes, camps and workshops, but this seems to mean women artists are taught about separately. If so, segregation is not acceptable. Women are not “other”.

    • All of our Artist Focus Classes are generally based on a 10 week session. For the first 5 weeks students will learn about one particular artist (male or female) and for the following 5 weeks students will then focus on learning and creating in the style of the second artist (male or female).

      Thanks again everyone for all of the great artist ideas! Art is good.

      Mallory from 4Cats

  3. the 4Cats in our city definitely has OKeefe. Keep on them!

    I love your daughter’s Frida Kahlo painting – I hadn’t heard of that artist before.

  4. Sofonoisba Anguissola, Artemesia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster, Elisabeth-Louis Vigee-Lebrun, Mary Casset, Rosa Boneur, Berthe Morisot. There’s more than that, of course, but those are the ones I remember learning about in various art history classes I’ve taken.

  5. Thanks for the feedback! Currently 4Cats Arts Studio offers female Artist Focus classes, camps and workshops for Frida Kahlo, Emily Carr, Mary Cassatt, Grandma Moses and Georgia O’Keeffe. We are also developing curriculum for Beatrix Potter. Very exciting!

    We are continually growing and changing and value feedback!

    Happy creating everyone,
    Mallory from 4Cats

  6. I wrote a letter to 4Cats headquarters about this. http://www.4cats.com/contact-4cats-hq
    The same thing has come up for my daughter, although her studio seems to offer 4 female artists: Frida Kahlo, Tamara de Lempicka, Emily Carr and Georgia O’Keeffe. (It’s possible that O’Keeffe is just a workshop – I’m not positive, I just know that we missed that one!) Monet seems to be offered every year, but there will be a year or so without a female artist to learn about — it’s a bit discouraging! I suggested Grandma Moses, MAry Cassatt and Beatrix Potter. I love the Kara Walker silhouettes – perhaps we’ll try somethng like that at home!

  7. I think that is a wonderful idea. Personally I think Georgia O’Keeffe is a great artist too have children model too. Much of her work is so big and bright! so kid friendly 😉

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