The Ladies Network is a multi-platform agency for female identifying and gender-fluid creatives. The Ladies Network organise events that support and recognise the creative contribution of women in the areas of art, music, business and design.
The Ladies Network organise a regular group exhibition titled “The Ladies” that showcases art by over 30 female artists.
The Ladies group exhibition was founded in Sydney in 2015 and is curated by Lara Vrkic.
The Ladies Network is updated daily with interviews, features, studio visits and reviews, bringing you the best in local and international female talent. The Ladies Network website is run by editor-in-chief, Arabella Peterson.
The Ladies Network is now a multifaceted creative agency whose offerings include art exhibitions, music events and an online art store.
We’d love to get to know each other a little better! Here are some frequently (and not so frequently) asked questions. If you need any clarification on any of these points, please feel free to contact us.
How do you select artists to be in your shows, profiled on your website, featured on your Instagram or displayed on your online store?
Artists for exhibitions are generally sourced by our curator, Lara and creatives to be featured in content are sourced by our editor Arabella or chosen via submissions. We take submissions via email and Instagram, but due to the enormous volume of submissions every day, this can be very difficult to keep on top of. The selection process for shows is often dependent on the theme, space and nature of the show. If you feel that your work would be well-suited to The Ladies Network, please feel free to email us and we will endeavour to get back to you. If you don’t hear back, it’s certainly not because we are ignoring you or we don’t enjoy your work, it is likely because we haven’t had a chance to tend to your submission yet.
Can men be featured on The Ladies Network?
We have only had a few incidents where people have suggested that not including men is ‘sexist’. When people say that everyone is already equal, this fails to take into consideration the many complex ways that identity intersects and the ingrained privileges that come with this. The capitalist, patriarchal nature of society runs into the creative industries and the majority of creative directors, CEO’s, gallery owners, art collectors and paid artists are still men. The intent it not to be divisive or exclusionary, but rather to elevate demographics that have historically been ignored in order to even out the creative landscape and create opportunities.
We do not want to be exclusionary to any ‘minority’; therefore we are of course completely inclusive of trans women, queer women, non-binary, gender-fluid, even trans and queer men (only if they have approached us and expressed a desire to be involved, of course, we acknowledge that TLN is likely not something they would be interested in being involved in).
I emailed/Facebook messaged/Instagram DM’d/ commented on one of your photos and never got a response. Why is that?
We’re sorry you haven’t heard back, perhaps send a follow up email! We get dozens of emails per day asking us to promote artists’ work and be involved in projects. This is amazing and so heartening that there are so many people out there doing incredible and creative things! But as much as we would love to, we just can’t be involved in every single project. If we haven’t replied, it’s not because we don’t love what you are doing. We wish we could reply to every single message, but this would take a team of people working round the clock!
The best way to get your work out there is actually to post in our Facebook group, which you can join here. In terms of directly reaching like minded people, this is actually the most effective method. If you haven’t heard back from us in a little while, it may be best to post in here.
I feel like the name The Ladies Network is very cis heteronormative. Are you trans/non-binary/gender-fluid inclusive?
We are 100% inclusive of queer, trans, non-binary and gender-fluid people. The Ladies Network name was created after the first exhibition in 2015 which was called ‘The Ladies’ before branching out as a website and agency and positioning ourselves as a network. We (perhaps naively and coming from a privileged mindset) assumed that this would be evidently inclusive of everyone who identifies as a ‘lady’ or has a fluid or femme identity; however we now understand that this may be exclusionary to some. We have sought advice and opinion from non-binary and gender-fluid people who have advised us of how to best move forward as The Ladies Network. If anyone feels excluded in any way, we would urge you to email us and we can discuss this and work out how we can support you to the best of our abilities.
I think you should be paying all your contributors; otherwise you are only perpetuating a standard of exploitation in the arts. Why don’t you pay everyone involved?
We truly wish that we could pay everyone involved, including ourselves. The creative industries are saturated with large companies and corporations that intentionally do not pay creatives regardless of their finances, and trade free work for ‘exposure’. It’s a huge problem which plays into the nature of capitalism and continues to devalue and exploit artists. Due to our rapid growth and substantial amount of followers, it is understandable that we would appear from the outside to be a functioning and profitable business; however the reality is that followers do not equal profit – we are all volunteers who work other jobs and do TLN on the side as a passion project in order to support people in the arts. We have never made any personal profit; in fact we have ourselves funded TLN because we are very passionate about getting other artists paid. Here is an article written by our editor-in-chief, Arabella, about why artists should stop doing free work for large companies, and the difference between collaboration and commissioned work by a company. There is also an interview by Grapeshot magazine which outlines some of the issues that the industry perpetuates and what can be done.
The way the website generally works is an artist or creative will approach us to promote their work or project, we then source a writer who would be keen and willing to do the piece and our editor formats and publishes it on the website. This is a collaboration, as all parties are benefitting; the artist receives the promotion and support that they asked for, the writer chooses to further their experience as a published writer with full knowledge of the nature of TLN, and we get to continue to support artists and writers through our network. There is not one entity which is making a profit while the other commits to free labour, it is all volunteers. Writers will often also email with a pitch for an article or an interview that they would love to publish through TLN, which is entirely their prerogative.
If a writer feels they are not getting what they want out of writing for TLN or that they have done their fair share of volunteering, there is absolutely no pressure to continue. We always make it clear that this is a project that is collaborative and very flexible. Like our exhibitions, we pride ourselves on having established writers alongside people who may have never published a piece in their life. For some it is a stepping stone into the industry and valuable experience before they move on to paid work, for others it is something they do on top of their paid writing because they believe in the ethos and values of TLN. We hope that people feel valued and that this is a collaborative network.
The ways in which we get artists and writers paid is by pitching ideas to brands that will involve and pay artists, photographers, performers or writers; by exhibiting and promoting them in our shows and online store and trying as hard as we can to sell their works so they benefit from this experience; by recommending creatives to brands and companies sourcing artists for upcoming events and projects; by putting on music nights where the performers are paid for their time and skills.
We want to be completely transparent, that is why we regularly remind people how we operate and where our money is going.
The only solutions that seem available to us at the moment are:
Pay contributors out of our own pockets from our respective jobs.
Shut down the TLN website completely.
Keep trying to build up TLN as a network where the core team and contributors are collaborative volunteers until we can manage to seek forms of revenue such as website advertising, sponsored content, brand collaboration or an investor so we can start paying everyone, even possibly ourselves.
The first option is not economically feasible for us to get by; members of our team are working full-time hours on TLN with a casual job on the side to make some income. It would be impossible to pay contributors from this income on top of the volunteering we already do. We feel that option two would be a great loss. We are under the impression that all the writers and artists involved in contributing to TLN website do so by their own will, are enthusiastic and feel like their talent is appreciated. Unless you genuinely think we have done more harm than good to the arts scene and think it would be best if we ceased to exist, this does not seem to be a great option. Option three is what we are working on at the moment. If anyone has any suggestions which we may have not considered, we would absolutely love to hear them, please feel free to email us.
You sell merch, take a commission on artworks and sometimes collaborate with brands, how can you not be making any profit for yourselves?
Taking a commission on artworks is standard practice for any functioning gallery, business or retail store so that these places can survive. We take about half of the average commission compared to most galleries so that the artists involved can get the best outcome from working with us and so we can be as supportive as possible while still getting by. Unfortunately the amount we make off art commission isn’t enough to cover even a portion of what it costs to put on a single exhibition or run a business, let alone pay four people.
We don’t have web advertising to gain any sort of revenue from the site, so the website actually costs us money (maintenance and updates), rather than making it. We have done a very minimal amount of sponsored content in which a portion of the profit went back into the business and another portion was paid to artists which we voluntarily put forward to be involved, rather than taking the whole fee. We don’t have any investors, which is how many publications and businesses survive in this current creative climate, so all our funding is coming from ourselves and these small means of income. At present, the money we make from merch goes back into ordering more runs of merch, as it is only increasing in popularity and demand.
We have declined many offers for paid projects and collaboration as they did not align with our core values or reflect our ethos; we know that we have a responsibility to represent wom*n and we want to do this respectfully. We are 100% transparent in how we operate and where our money goes. At many of our events, we have collected donations or donated a portion of our proceeds to various charities such as Hey Sis, Australian Marriage Equality and The Rough Period because as well as the arts, we think women should be supported in these crucial areas too.
We believe that while it is understandable to be curious about the workings of TLN, the fact that we are required to continually assure people that we are unpaid and defend our motives is an insight into both gendered expectations when it comes to business, economic independence and expectations of benevolence as well as the nature of the creative industries. Everyone has a right to be paid for their work, but by entering a feminist space in the creative industries it does feel that we have forfeited this. One day we would love to make a living off TLN, and based on the years of unpaid labour that we have done; we do believe that this is a fair desire.
I am all for advocating for equality, but you are four white middle-class women, how can you be truly intersectional?
An excellent and valid point – and something that is at the forefront of our minds every day. When we started TLN, it was a small exhibition in Surry Hills, Sydney, intended to be a small exhibition or ‘art party’ of sorts that also highlighted some talented local artists. We were a group of friends and certainly
didn’t form TLN with the intent for it to grow into the platform it is now. TLN was not initially envisioned to be a highly political venture; however we acknowledge that by entering a female-centric space that we have inherently taken on this responsibility and in most cases, art is intrinsically political.
It has in the past been suggested that we should ‘recruit’ a person of colour, queer or genderqueer person to be a part of the core TLN team, however we feel that this would be an incredibly tokenistic move on our part. We believe that the best way to keep ourselves in check is to keep listening, learning and being responsive to criticism as well as ensuring that we are being inclusive. We can’t change who we are, but we can acknowledge the privilege we hold and how that intersects with feminism, activism and opportunities both in the arts and in general, and actively try to utilise this for the betterment of the arts and society.
With our following being mainly from urban Sydney and Melbourne, the majority of comments we receive about diversity are made by other white, cis-gender women from the inner-city. While we take all criticism on board, in these cases, we also encourage these women to be the change that they would like to see, as it is a lot of pressure for the representation of all women in the arts to fall on our shoulders. We want to amplify other people’s voices, not speak over or on behalf of them. Let’s all help each other out! When it comes to complaints by PoC, Indigenous Australians, queer, trans, non-binary and gender-fluid people, we want to do everything in our power to be responsive to these complaints and we are always open to critique and suggestions by those who these issues directly affect.
I don’t like the traditionally ‘feminine’ aesthetic of The Ladies Network i.e. the use of the colour pink, imagery alluding to female body parts or the work of some artists involved, why is this how you choose to present TLN?
Essentially, much of this is just a matter of curatorial taste. We think everyone is free to express themselves in the way they would like aesthetically and otherwise, whether this is through pink and pastels or through a more ‘edgy’ appearance – both are great and neither is more valid than the other! We always try to venture outside our ‘bubble’ and explore artists with different aesthetics, although being an art platform, there does have to be some kind of curatorial consistency. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same, and these differences in taste are what makes the art scene fun and dynamic.
Unfortunately every single thing we do cannot represent every type of woman all-in-one, so there has to be some variance. If anyone feels like we are doing anything that oppresses their identity, please email us and we will be more than happy to discuss the issue and hopefully reach a conclusion.
Are your t-shirts ethically produced?
We are very much opposed to marketplace feminism and fashions’ capitalist hijacking of the movement. We don’t think that displaying messages of ‘girl power’ on merchandise that is manufactured by underpaid and exploited women in other countries is true feminism. Therefore, we use manufacturers who create their shirts with organic and environmentally friendly cotton and pay award wages. If you have any questions about our merchandise please email Emmeline at Emmeline.firstname.lastname@example.org
I saw an artwork or article posted on your website/Instagram/in an exhibition that I really don’t like. What can be done about this?
This can be a contentious issue if the article or artwork is by a contributor outside of the TLN team. While we would never display something by a third party that is blatantly oppressive, cruel or offensive, we understand that everyone has very different opinions politically, socially and artistically. We are a platform for people to express their ideas and creativity through, and we are open to many different viewpoints. If the piece is drawing upon lived experiences, especially those of PoC, queer and gender diverse people, we generally don’t feel comfortable censoring their art; although we want an open dialogue and everything is dealt with on a case by case basis with deep consideration for everyone involved. In these cases, it is often best to contact the artist or writer directly to discuss the issue as we can’t speak on behalf of artists and their personal opinions.
I just skimmed through your Instagram/website/had a look at the artists involved in a show and I don’t think there were enough WoC or queer participants. Will this be rectified?
We absolutely acknowledge that representation and visibility is crucial and we are constantly trying to make our exhibitions and platform as a whole more inclusive and diverse. We can always improve on this. It is also important to note that in terms of art and photography, by skimming through our Instagram you would not be able to tell which artists are PoC or queer, so in some cases people base their assessment off how many photographs of WoC there are on our feed. This is not a very accurate way to determine which artists are of which ethnicity as some PoC photographers use white subjects and vice versa. We dedicate a lot of time and effort to ensuring that there is a balance of different ethnicities and identities being represented on our website, but if you feel there still are not enough, we absolutely welcome suggestions and recommendations of creative people to profile, we would love to hear from you.
I noticed that you spelled an artist’s name wrong/credited the wrong artist/left out a credit. What’s up with that?
Unfortunately there have been a handful of incidents in the past where we have spelled someone’s name wrong or mis-credited an artwork. This has in every case come down to human error (i.e. typo’s or using an unreliable source) and we would never intentionally try to devalue someone’s work by doing this. In every situation, we have rectified the issue to the best of our ability and we are sincerely sorry for anyone feeling undervalued or offended by this.
In terms of our website, the images are generally supplied by the contributor who has written the piece and sourced the images, and if they are provided without credits we assume that they are press photos. If this is not the case, again, it comes down to human error and we will fix the issue as soon as possible.
I’m a woman/gender-fluid/female-identifying/queer/non-binary person and I don’t feel represented or supported by you. What can be done?
We’re very sorry to hear that, and we sincerely hope that we haven’t done anything to directly make you feel this way. We entirely understand that we do not, and may never be able to perfectly represent everyone, but we want to try to be as inclusive and understanding as we can. Please email us directly with any suggestions with how you think we could better represent you, we would love to hear how we can improve.
We have seen lots of creative platforms grow in the last few years that service different needs, focus on various areas, present themselves in different ways and champion diverse issues. We think this is absolutely amazing! If you feel that there is a gap in the artistic landscape that is not being filled by us or anyone else, or there are areas that we are not covering as well as you think we should, often the best way to solve this is to start your own venture! We targeted a space in the industry that we felt was lacking, but of course there is still so much work to do, and we can’t address every single issue perfectly. The way that we position ourselves is in our own very positive and fun way, everyone approaches things differently and as long as everyone is respectful, kind and understanding, one method does not make another one wrong. Unfortunately, we just can’t be everything to everyone all the time, but we can try to make a positive difference in the ways we know how.
Also, there is also no pressure or obligation at all to engage with our platform. Everyone is free to unfollow, unlike or even block us if they are not interested in what we do.
The Ladies Network did something that I dislike or disagree with, what’s the best way to let you know my feelings?
While we absolutely acknowledge the importance of ‘calling out’ people and organisations that are acting in an oppressive way, we also think that social media can be a place where arguments can become misconstrued and counterproductive. A cruel or angry comment made in the heat of the moment can often have negative repercussions for all parties involved.
We are all in the process of learning and growing together. If you had told us two years ago what TLN was going to become, we wouldn’t have believed it! Half the team hadn’t even finished university yet when it was established and we certainly don’t claim to be experts in every area, TLN has provided us with invaluable experiences and we have gained so much.
Our main desire is that we all communicate respectfully and with understanding and try to see things from other people’s perspectives. Social media and the accessibility of commenting on a whim has leant itself to outrage culture and a landscape where opinions can be formed and a comment can be left in an instant, without looking into the issue at hand or doing any further research or consideration. Constructive criticism can only be truly constructive if a dialogue is opened, or if suggestions are made. Often when comments are left, after explaining our position we ask for suggestions or welcome people to email us to discuss the issue further if they feel we have truly made an error of judgement, but this offer has not yet been taken up. We also welcome anyone who thinks there is an area which could be improved to consider volunteering; we would love to have the insights or expertise of people outside the TLN team to help volunteer alongside us.
Please try to keep in mind that we are also four very different people with our own opinions running one organisation. We don’t always agree on everything, but we think this can expand our thinking and help us see things from different perspectives. If you have an issue that you would like to raise with a particular member of TLN, it is often best to contact them directly.
We believe that your feelings are valid, always, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However the way we choose to present these feelings and opinions is a choice. We would never want to tone police anyone, especially WoC and queer people, and it is not the responsibility of minorities to calmly educate anybody, however so much can be achieved if we listen rather than yell over the top of each other and discuss rather than attack.
I think The Ladies Network is rad! How can I get involved?
We think you’re rad too! You can start by joining our Facebook group, which we feel is the best way to reach out to TLN community. If you have any specific questions or have a suggestion as to how you could be involved in another way, please email one of the team members. In terms of submissions, as we mentioned earlier, if you don’t hear back from us it’s definitely not because we don’t love what you do. Send a follow up email and if you still have not received a response, perhaps post in the Facebook group.
We feel so close to everyone who has attended one of our exhibitions or events, contributed to our platform in any way or engaged with us online or in person. We can’t thank you enough for the support and displays of solidarity and kindness we see every day. We hope that you feel supported by us and we will keep trying to make a difference in the arts so that one day we can reach our goals.