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Identifier: MC 1482

Joan Arbeiter Papers


  • 1941 - 2017
  • Majority of material found within 1975 - 2017

Scope and Contents

This collection contains material related to the professional life of New Jersey-based Joan Arbeiter as an artist and a teacher. The material in this collection reflect Arbeiter's career in New Jersey and New York during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, spanning the years from 1975 to 2017. Documents found in this collection include photographs, correspondence, notes, reproductions of Arbeiter's artwork, exhibition information, articles, audio cassettes, VHS cassettes, and more. Arbeiter's work is greatly influenced by feminist themes, which are reflected in this collection. Much of the material was originally housed in thematic binders, which is reflected in the series arrangement of the collection. Several of the binders documented Arbeiter's involvement in the art world through the years, others were specific to artwork and exhibitions, while others documented Arbeiter's teaching, writings, and feminist research.

In the audiovisual material series, there are a number of audio cassettes and VHS tapes, many of which are related to the New York Feminist Art Institute (NYFAI), Ceres Gallery, and/or the Women's Caucus for Art. These recordings are of events, panels, and lectures. The majority of the material in this section appears to be from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Please note that some of the cassettes have no or incomplete labels.

Included in the Works & Exhibitions section of this collection is material on the shows and exhibitions in which Arbeiter was involved. This includes material specific to these works, such as photographs of exhibit spaces and events, announcements, artist statements, photographs or slides of the artworks, and more. Some of this material seems to have been intended to serve as supplimental material in an exhibit in order to help give context to the works presented in the exhibitions, providing updates, artistic movivations, or the processes Arbeiter undertook to create the pieces.

Additionally, there were a number of binders that chronologically documented Arbeiter's professional life. These binders were labeled based on what years they documented and started from 1975 and went up to 2017. These were rehoused and are now found in the chronological files section of this collection. This material documented Arbeiter's involvement in the feminist art community, including events, correspondence, and photographs.

Furthermore, Arbeiter was a teacher at the duCret School of Art, located in Plainfield, New Jersey. In the teaching series of this collection, there are materials related to Arbeiter's time teaching at this school as well as lectures or workshops Arbeiter taught. This includes lesson plans, handouts, photographs of classes, and teacher evaluation forms.

This collection also contains material related to Arbeiter's writings. In addition to the material related to the book Arbeiter co-wrote, Lives & Works, which can be found in the Works & Exhibitions section of this collection, there is also a section specific to Arbeiter's writings and research. This includes articles and papers written by Arbeiter, as well as material not written by Arbeiter that appears to be research material that influenced her. Much of the research material is related to feminism and art, including a number of articles on Artemisia Gentileschi.

In the Catalogs & Newletter section of the collection, there are a small number of catalogs related to feminist art and the newsletter from the Women's Studio Center, titled Women's Art News. There are copies of this newsletter spanning the years from 2000 to 2007.


8.3 Linear Feet (4 audiovisual boxes and 13.5 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials

In English

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions; advanced notice required to consult collection.


Joan Arbeiter is an artist, author, and curator, focusing on women in the arts. Arbeiter was educated at Douglass College and the New York Feminist Art Institute, where she took the Visual Diaries Class. Because of NYFAI, Arbeiter became involved in the Women's Art Movement by joining the Women's Caucus for Art, exhibiting and curating at Ceres Gallery, and co-writing the book Lives and Works: Talks with Women Artists which was published in 1999. The collection contains documentation of Ceres exhibits; the writing, research, interviews, and editing of Lives; and correspondence with other women artists.

Biographical / Historical

Joan Arbeiter is a feminist and multimedia visual artist. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York before moving to New Jersey as an adult. She attended Douglass College for three years and received a BA from Brooklyn College. In 1962 she moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey with her husband, where they had two children. In the early 1970s, Arbeiter attended duCret School of the Arts as well as Montclair State University for graduate school. In the mid-1970s, she began showing exhibits before going on to earn her MFA from Pratt Institute in 1981. In 1979, Arbeiter became an intern at the New York Feminist Art Institute (NYFAI) as part of earning her MFA from Pratt. While an intern at the NYFAI, Arbeiter expanded the NYFAI database to include more women artists from New Jersey, based on a list made with librarian Lynn Miller.

Arbeiter has been involved with the feminist art world of New York and New Jersey since the 1970s. She has worked with the College Art Association (CAA), the Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA), and the Ceres Gallery since the early 1980s, and has been a member of ArtTable since 2003. Arbeiter was part of the inaugural exhibit of Ceres Gallery, a feminist New York City based gallery that grew out of the New York Feminist Art Institute.

Arbeiter has had a number of significant art exhibitions, including “CAA Job Search Documentation,” “Age as a Work of Art” (also referred to as “Aging Faces/Facing Aging”), “Street People: Portraits,” “Lives & Works: Talks With ‘Women Artists,’” “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Girl,” and more.

In the mid-1980s, her exhibit, “CAA Job Search Documentation,” showed at both the Ceres Gallery and Columbia University. This exhibit grew out of Arbeiter’s frustrations during a two-year long, highly competitive job search. She had been searching for a job as a college professor, but the jobs were highly coveted positions, some with around 700 applicants for a single job. During this job search, Arbeiter received 70 rejection letters, and from these rejection letters, along with a variety of materials that centered around this grueling job search process, created an installation highlighting the contrast between her qualifications as a professional and the vast amount of rejection received regardless. This installation had strong political overtones, intending to shine a light on the reduced emphasis on the arts as well as a critique of how few women faculty were receiving tenure.

“Age as a Work of Art” and “Street People” featured communities and individuals who are on the outskirts of representation in culture, the elderly and the homeless population respectively. The works in these exhibitions were intended to put faces to and find dignity in those in these communities, connecting the audience with the humanity found within.

Arbeiter co-authored the book, Lives and Works: Talks With Women Artists, vol 2. The creation of this book inspired a portrait series of the artists featured in the book. In the portrait series, “Lives and Works: Women Artists,” Arbeiter created portraits of the women she had interviewed, incorporating aspects of the artist in the portrait. For example, there is fabric from Miriam Schapiro’s fabric collection in the portrait of Schapiro created by Arbeiter. Arbeiter then had the subject of each portrait write something directly on the portrait. The subjects were encouraged to write “a brief observation about life, art, and or feminism.” When on exhibit, these pieces were paired with quotes from the book, Lives and Works. This served as a reflection of women artists and the feminist art movement from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Arbeiter has also been involved in art education. She was an instructor at the duCret School of Art in Plainfield, New Jersey, and was the director of the Joan Arbeiter Studio School from 1976-1988.


The Joan Arbeiter papers are arranged into five series. This arrangement is primarily based on the original order of the material and the manner in which the materials were thematically grouped and organized upon accession. The bulk of the material was organized into labeled binders. Several of the binders were specific to Arbeiter’s artworks, exhibits, and her book, Lives & Works (which can now be found in the series Works & Exhibitions), while other binders were a chronological file of material related to Arbeiter’s life in the art world. There were binders that were specific to Arbeiter’s writing and teaching, as well as binders of research on art and feminism. These binders made up the bulk of the collection and are the basis of the arrangement of the collection. The arrangement of the series is as follows:

    • Lives & Works
    • CAA Job Search
    • Street People
    • Age as a Work of Art
    • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl
    • Vanishing Vista
    • Friends and Neighbors
    • Portraits
    • Slides

Please see series arrangement notes for more information.

Guide to the Joan Arbeiter papers
Kate Van Riper
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.