Words by Ruth Ronnau

Fifteen women are sitting around a conference table. Watercolor supplies, plastic cups filled with sangria and plates of chips and salsa are spread out around them. For the most part, they chat quietly about their work and their days while watercoloring flowers of all different shapes and sizes, but when someone laughs, they all start laughing too.

For the Des Moines Girl Gang, women hanging out and making art together isn’t uncommon; it’s one of the many workshops — screen-printing, weaving and knitting, to name a few — the group has held in the past year since the Gang’s first art show.

Claire Sedovic, a graphic designer at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines, leads this watercolor workshop. Sedovic got involved with the Des Moines Girl Gang around November of last year after she saw some of the group’s stickers at her office. For her, the Girl Gang has been a place to keep working on her personal art collection, giving her the drive to create after the workday ends.

“It’s something that I was looking for since graduating, actually, and it’s kind of filled that outlet for me — having a group of like-minded women outside of work you can discuss art and make art with,” Sedovic says.

Sedovic’s two-hour workshop is informal. She brought all the food, supplies and some of her own pieces to show the group. And the instruction sheet she’s given the women has clear instructions but no set rules. She’s also brought a piece they can try to mimic if they want, and some do, while others paint whatever comes to mind.

Some members of the Girl Gang followed Sedovic’s instructions exactly, while others took a more free-form approach. Photo provided by Meanz Chan.

Sedovic’s workshop highlights the overall message of the Des Moines Girl Gang: women coming together, working on art and supporting each other. The group came to fruition last year when Meanz Chan, Alexandria Crahan and Tia Rodemeyer co-founded the group. They’ve since added Janelle Ketcher to their small group of administrators. Chan says they felt there wasn’t a community of women in Des Moines to share and show their art with, so they created their own.

“It’s something that I’ve noticed growing up — females being super competitive with each other for almost no reason, feeling like we can’t all be friends even though we have a lot of common interests,” says Chan, a photographer and the marketing manager at Sticks, a Des Moines furniture store. “This was a way to bridge that gap, to connect people that would never really be in the same situation.”

Since its beginning, the group has grown from 10 people at their initial meeting to now having over 800 people in its Facebook group and almost 2,000 followers on Instagram. Its latest show in early March brought spring-themed artwork to Hill Vintage and Knits, one of the Girl Gangs’ go-to galleries.

Hill Vintage and Knits is co-owned by Jessica Miller and Erica Carnes. It isn’t the only gallery where the Girl Gang shows its work, but it seems to be one of their favorites.

“We figured two females who’ve started their own business in the East Village [of Des Moines] might be a better fit for us,” Chan said.

The Girl Gang recently opened a new show on May 6 at Sacred Diamond Tattoo from 7-10 p.m., in which it presents a collection of self-portraits. Besides this event, Chan doesn’t have a definitive plan for the future, except to keep the Girl Gang going — and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any time soon.