On Oct. 19, The Musical Instrument Museum opened the doors to its latest exhibition: “Women Who Rock.” Originally collected and displayed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the exhibition began traveling around the country in 2012, finally landing in Phoenix for its only stay in the Southwest.
Featuring mainly American, female stars from the 1920s to today, Women Who Rock shows how women affected the history of rock n’ roll.
“I think an exhibition like this, which is a slice of history through a particular lens, offers an opportunity to really look at the roles that women
have played [and] the contributions that they’ve made.You’re looking at resistance to a male-dominated environment, the struggle … and then the eventual increase of control that women have been able to take in their careers,” MIM curator Dr. Cullen Strawn said.
Arranged chronologically, Women Who Rock features approximately 70 artists from Aretha Franklin to Alicia Keys. Generally sporting an infamous outfit, a small biography and various other items like notes or instruments, each section is allocated to a specific artist. A few pieces that automatically stood out included Mary Wilson’s (of The Supremes) Green Petals dress, Cher’s iconic American Indian headdress and costume, Joan Jett’s outfit from her 1981”I Love Rock n’ Roll” album cover, Madonna’s unforgettable, shiny (and pointy) Blonde Ambition Tour outfit, Britney Spears’s “Oops I Did It Again” jumper from the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards and some handwritten song lyrics from Taylor Swift.
Perfectly fitting in with the duo-toned photos and displays MIM already has in its Artist Gallery, Women Who Rock contains items donated from personal collections as well as pieces that are on loan from the artists themselves. One such item is the infamous meat dress Lady Gaga showcased at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Sent to a taxidermist for preservation, the meat dress (and shoes) are now painted red in an attempt to bare resemblance to its original colors.
But due to the museum’s unique grasp of technology to appeal beyond visitors’ visual sense, guests have the opportunity to experience Women Who Rock at the MIM in ways normal museums could not offer. Not only does a soundtrack continuously loop tracks from the 70 featured artists, but three monitors sync audio with visitors’ hearing devices, playing hours of biographical interviews and live performances. In other words, while guests marvel at the fashion and story behind their favorite rock stars, they can also tune into a live performance from The Go-Go’s or an interview with ABBA.
MIM takes it yet another step further with their innovative creation of the Women in Music mini-tour with stops around the entire museum, highlighting women’s musical roles across the globe, in jazz and here in the United States. Plus, this upcoming First Friday (November 1st), MIM’s doors will stay open late for Friday Night Unwind from 5 to 9 p.m. Featuring a specialty cocktail from their cafe, a photo-booth and a “community chat” with Phoenix Art Museum curatorial assistant and fashion blogger Casey Hagarty, the evening promises fun events and live music.