700 women pose for a massive group photo in downtown LA

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The idea wasn't complicated — gather a few local, contemporary female artists for a photograph. The result? More than 700 women will head to downtown Los Angeles on Sunday for a massive group snapshot.

Update: Kim Schoenstadt tells KPCC that 877 artists RSVP'd and 733 attended. She's currently working on compiling the final list of participants.

"It was my simple little summer project that bloomed," says artist Kim Schoenstadt

Sunday at noon, Schoenstadt and hundreds of other female artists will gather at Arts District mega-gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel for Now Be Here

She conceived the idea after seeing the exhibition "Revolution in the Making," a survey of female sculptors from the last 70 years.

"I was impressed at the work," Schoenstadt says, "but I was also impressed by what the show's curator, Jenni Sorkin, said: 'For every artist in the show, there's many many other female artists we could have selected from.'" 

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The sentiment echoed Schoenstadt's experience. "When I was very young, I would travel with my then boss and I would hear, 'Oh, there just aren't that many female artists in L.A. who are working who are good.' And I always thought, is that true? Maybe. I don't know. Then I would go to openings and see all these female artists and they were amazing," she says.

To make Now Be Here a reality, Schoenstadt began by inviting 250 artists and asked them to forward the invite to other artists. "We don't want to overlook anybody. This is an inclusive project. As long as they consider themselves female and consider themselves a contemporary artist, they're invited to be part of this." 

She did two more rounds of outreach — to galleries, curators and museums — asking them to spread news of the photo shoot. 

725 women have RSVP'd yes for the event but Schoenstadt says she'll be happy if 500 show up. 

When they do, two photographers — Isabel Avila and Carrie Yury — will snap a pair of images: One with each participant holding a number in front of their face and another without the number.

Inspired by the 1958 photograph "A Great Day In Harlem," a group portrait of 57 jazz musicians casually posed in front of a New York brownstone, Schoenstadt's drive to document the female artists of L.A. is, in part, personal.

"This is something that I struggle with in my life, this problem of being present. I'm an artist. I'm a mother. I'm a partner. I realized I had lost touch with many parts of my community because I just wasn't present. This project, for me, maybe it's a little selfish. Maybe I just want to see all my friends again and take a giant photograph," she laughs. 

It's also part of an effort to document the artistic contributions of women, who have often been ignored or written out of art world narratives.

"Any time you get 700 people together, it's a political moment," Schoenstadt says.

Everyone who participates will receive a photo. The image will also be offered to all local museums so they can keep a copy in their archives.

"Let's make this an archive," Schoenstadt says. "Let's make it easy. Let's serve it up on a platter. And if people still make the choice to not include female artists, then it's a choice."

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