We are often surprised by the individuals and organizations that are not yet included in Wikipedia’s vast online encyclopedia. That’s why Melissa Chavez and I attended a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon hosted by the Pacific Northwest College of the Arts (PNCA) devoted to adding entries on artists of color.
Adding an artist
PNCA’s Jason Moore and Linden How — both enthusiastic Wikipedia editors — served as moderators and coaches for the Artists of Color Edit-a-thon at the art school’s campus in Portland. After a discussion about selecting artists to add to Wikipedia, Melissa decided that it was time visual artist Bradley Theodore had his own page. With help from Moore, Melissa and I researched and reviewed coverage of his art, and extracted the facts about Theodore’s life that the media coverage supported. She wrote it, Moore reviewed it, and she posted it.
Within the space of a few hours, Theodore went from Wikipedia obscurity to notability, and another artist of color can now be found in the online encyclopedia.
Underrepresented people need to be on Wikipedia
Artists of color are among those historically ignored or overlooked by the Wikipedia volunteer editing community. Sadly, it reflects the inherent and well-documented demographics of Wikipedia editors: Older white males who are mostly interested in “serious” topics such as science, math, history, and politics.
Oh, they may deign to work on articles on Picasso, van Gogh, and Rembrandt because of their historical value, but modern American artists who aren’t white and male (and even some who are) aren’t on their radar.
This is the kind of difference someone like Melissa — a seasoned writer and experienced Wikipedian — can make to begin to chip away at the well-documented white male dominance among Wikipedians. The only way to achieve a better balance is to encourage more people of color and members of underrepresented groups, like Melissa, to contribute to Wikipedia.
We challenge others to do what Melissa did: Select a person or organization that is underrepresented in our society and add them to Wikipedia. You need to learn the rules of engagement: notability, neutrality, collaboration.
It is meticulous work, time-consuming when well done but rewarding. But, once you get the hang of it, it’s quite empowering. And the more Bradley Theodores we add to Wikipedia, the more balanced and informative it will become.
If we got you thinking about someone you’d like to see added to Wikipedia, there are Edit-a-thons happening all around the country that you could join. Or, contact us, and we can guide you the process of making your first edits on Wikipedia and then starting a new page.