The Fleisher Years Chapter 7: Dina Wind and the Wind Challenge (2005–)

Since the inception of the Challenge exhibition series in 1978, Fleisher Art Memorial has supported hundreds of emerging and mid-career artists in the region. Though the Challenge has now been a constant in the Philadelphia art scene for nearly 50 years, there was a point when the future of the well-established series was at risk. During that time, Dina Wind and her family played an important supporting role in Fleisher’s history, heralding the start of a new and enduring chapter for the series with a new name: the Wind Challenge.

In addition to serving as a Fleisher board member for more than a decade, Dina Wind was a prolific artist and member of Nexus, the formative artist-run space and network dedicated to supporting local emerging and experimental artists engaged in new art practices. Established in 1976—shortly before the launch of the Challenge two years later—Nexus would become known as another vital hub and resource for the Philadelphia arts community.

Dina and her husband Jerry Wind shared a strong belief in the power of art to positively impact lives and society. Over the years, Fleisher and the Wind family have intersected on a number of different exhibitions, fellowships, and special events, but the most notable is the ongoing Wind Challenge. In a recent conversation about the beginning of his family’s involvement, Jerry noted the impact that the Challenge had on Dina long before they were supporting the series. Both as a practicing artist and a patron of the arts, she recognized the valuable role the annual series played in supporting and showcasing contemporary arts practice in the city.

Jerry also spoke of their joy in discovering work by Challenge artists such as Syd Carpenter, the renowned ceramics and mixed media sculptor. After first purchasing Carpenter’s work from an exhibition at Fleisher in the 1980s, the Winds would go on to acquire and prominently feature a number of the artist’s works in their collection, as well as the those of other Challenge artists.

In her own practice as a sculptor, Dina worked with cast-off materials such as abandoned car parts, industrial cut outs, and discarded tools, creating powerful assemblage sculptures and bold room-sized installations. In 2014, after a four-year fight with ovarian cancer, she passed away at 76, leaving behind a lifetime of formidable artwork and accomplishments.

Since Dina and Jerry Wind began supporting the program—Fleisher records note the date as September 2005, though the Wind family was involved with the organization well before this—they have helped to champion the work of over one hundred emerging and mid-career artists selected through the Wind Challenge. After Dina’s passing in 2014, her influence has continued to reverberate at Fleisher. Beyond the opportunity to exhibit in Fleisher’s galleries, the program has also provided increased exposure for participating artists through related programming and additional exhibition opportunities coordinated in collaboration with Dina’s son, John Wind, through the Dina Wind Art Foundation.

To learn more about Dina’s work and legacy, visit the Dina Wind Art Foundation website; her work is also currently on view in Philadelphia at Bridgette Mayer Gallery as part of Abstract Dimensions, a two-person exhibition also featuring the work of German photographer Jessica Backhaus. Abstract Dimensions runs through April 22.

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