After graduation, Weisberg taught drawing at Eastern Michigan University in nearby Ypsilanti, Michigan, before heading to Los Angeles in 1969 aftering winning a Ford Foundation grant housed at UCLA. While the all-male faculty there wouldn’t even return her calls — “there was so much sexism at the time. You can’t imagine,” she says — she found an ally in USC art school associate dean Lee Chesney, who invited her to openings, introduced her to people, and eventually hired her.
“There were three women on the USC faculty when I joined; I was the third,” Weisberg says.
“But that was better than nothing. Much better than nothing.”
For perspective, Weisberg says many art schools had no women faculty at the time, since the 1970s marked the very beginning of the first real era of the women’s movement. While she had the support of her peers in pushing back on the established norms of art schools run by white, male faculty, it was a slow climb. Originally hired as a visiting professor, Weisberg became a regular faculty member in 1975 and was soon promoted again when another professor fell ill.
“I went from being kind of nothing to being in charge of the printmaking area of quite a prestigious school, so it was wonderful,” she says.
Although she was finally getting recognized for her talents and hard work professionally, Weisberg still remembers little ways things were different for her from her colleagues. For instance, when the invitation came for the school Christmas party — “not a holiday party,” notes Weisberg, who is Jewish — it welcomed her and her “wife” to attend. When she stopped by the dean’s office to note that she didn’t have a wife but would be happy to bring her husband he said, “of course you’ll come with your husband, but you wouldn’t expect me to use a word like ‘spouse’ would you?”
“I was really in a generation of change,” Weisberg says. “Some of it was very dramatic, some of it fought over, and some of it slid into.
“I had shown work in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Detroit Institute of art. I mean, my career was going rather well, but being a woman artist or a woman faculty member, it took some real guts and sticktoitiveness and nerve because, to some people, you’re practically invisible.”
In addition to advancing her own career, Weisberg was actively working to raise the visibility of other women artists in L.A. at this time, as the voices of like minded women artists and educators also started making themselves known around the country. In the mid-’70s, she launched the L.A. chapter of the Women’s Caucus for Art with the help of artist and educator Judith K. Brodsky from Rutgers University. Originating in New York, the non-profit organization was founded a few years earlier and is dedicated to supporting women artists, art historians, arts educators, and museum professionals. She also was one of the first two artists whose work was exhibited at L.A.‘s new Women’s Building, a non-profit arts and education center.
Weisberg eventually became dean of the art school at USC, a position she held for 15 years. Under her leadership, the school took on a more national and international focus, grew significantly in size, and became endowed as the Roski School of Art and Design.
In the early 1990s, she became the first woman artist to lead the College Art Association in its 100 year history as president (two women had held the position before, both art historians). During her time as president, she had the good fortune of running into the U‑M professor who had told her an MFA would be wasted on her 30 years earlier when the two were attending the same conference. (“That really tickled me,” she says.)
Throughout her career as an educator and organizer, Weisberg never stopped working as an artist, including some major exhibits during her deanship. Inspired by the work of the old masters and themes of womanhood, family, and her Jewish heritage, Weisberg’s prints, drawings, paintings, and large-scale installations have appeared in 80 solo exhibits and 200 group shows internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Skirball Museum in L.A., along with many other galleries around the country. Over the summer, U‑M’s Stamps Gallery hosted a small retrospective of her work. Weisberg has stayed connected to Ann Arbor over the years through family and collectors who still live in the area, and the show featured some prime examples of her earlier work.