Celebrating Women’s History Month Through Art

Attendees admire portraiture made by artist Margaret Mendel featured at Goddard Riverside’s Community Center. Photo by Kaylin Guzman.


The 8th Annual Women’s History Artist Month (W.H.A.M) at the Goddard Riverside Community Center kicked off Women’s History Month on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with an eclectic exhibition of art on March 1.

The exhibition, “9 Muses: Portrait Exhibition,” displayed portraits of artists being featured during the month’s festival created by Margaret Mendel.

Attendees expressed their excitement for the upcoming events in the future weeks.

“It’s a beautiful array of different styles of art from them. We are talking about a beautiful touch of color and theme,” said Gwen Black, an event attendee. “It’s very important to have shows like these, dedicated to women artists because a lot of times we don’t get a lot of exposure nor support.”

Each portrait aimed to describe each woman and different aspects of their personality. Manon Manavit, the Community Arts Manager at Goddard Riverside, described the exhibition’s meaning.

“We have selected several artists who are presenting interdisciplinary events that we think have merit and that help bring us to a more fair and more just society,” Manavit said.

As attendees walked through the doors of the art space, one could see the nine muses who were featured in Mendel’s artistry. Mendel aimed to capture her subjects in their truest form.

“They were all strangers to me, and I had an interview with each one. Some lasted anywhere from half an hour to an hour or a little more, depending on how much they wanted to talk and tell me about themselves,” said Mendel regarding the process of her featured portraits.

Featured here is Jacqueline Lennon, President of International Women in Jazz as drawn by Mendel. Photo by Kaylin Guzman.

However, Mendel did not always focus on drawing portraits. She has experience in travel and food writing, along with a passion for street photography. Mendel had to pause on that passion as the COVID-19 pandemic constrained her subjects.

“At that point, I couldn’t go out and do the photography that I was used to doing, which was street photography. People had masks. I mean, I don’t have to explain to anyone why you couldn’t do portraits during a pandemic,” explained Mendel to the audience present.

Two of Mendel’s muses were on-hand at the event – Jacqueline Lennon, President of International Women in Jazz, and Milica Paranosic, a fellow creative mind. Both women will be hosting their own event alongside Goddard Riverside during the W.H.A.M Festival.

“The process was something. We talked about everything, but what I thought we were going to talk about because she has a way of opening you up,” laughed Lennon.

Lennon said Mendel wanted to capture the full picture. Not only did Lennon talk to Mendel, but she sang to her to provide her with more inspiration for the portrait.

“When I saw the portrait, I said, that’s me,” Lennon explained.

With a similar experience, Paranosic described her interview and portrait process with Mendel.

“I was in the worst of moods. I was really feeling horrible,” said Paranosic.

She was awaiting the results of a recent MRI from her doctor. She described herself feeling nervous and distracted as she came in to be interviewed by Mendel for the project.

“But Margaret was so wonderful about pondering into the insides of my thoughts. Even if they were unpleasant, she was interested in them,” explained Paranosic.

Such positive interactions between all of these women may give you a preview of this month’s vibe and festival. Each person with a portrait will be holding their own event at the community center in the near future.

To learn more about the upcoming events and artist features this month, visit the Goddard Riverside’s website.

Milica Paranosic’s portrait by artist Margaret Mendel. Photo by Kaylin Guzman.