In 2019, the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University received a transformative estate gift from Indiana philanthropist Jane Fortune (1942—2018), a passionate advocate for women in the arts and founder of the Florence, Italy-based nonprofit Advancing Women Artists. In addition to a collection of 61 works of fine art, the donation established the Jane Fortune Fund for Virtual Advancement of Women Artists, which has provided the start-up funding needed for A Space of Their Own research database. Born and raised in Indianapolis, Fortune was an author, art historian, art collector, philanthropist, and cultural editor. Her commitment to supporting female artists has been recognized around the world. In honor of Fortune’s generosity, the Eskenazi Museum of Art named its first-floor gallery of American and European Art from Medieval to 1900 the “Jane Fortune Gallery.”
Fortune’s most recent endeavor, A Space of Their Own, brings together research by Advancing Women Artists, the Eskenazi Museum of Art, and Indiana University to build the world’s largest database on international female artists from the 1500s to the 1800s. Research for the database is led by Eskenazi Museum of Art Director Emerita Adelheid “Heidi” Gealt. A Space of Their Own will provide the most comprehensive resource to date of information on female painters, printmakers, and sculptors active in the United States and Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries. Once this is complete, the Eskenazi Museum of Art has plans to broaden the scope of A Space of Their Own to include women artists around the globe and eventually through all time.