This is an exciting time for women, since there are so many organizations that are advocating for our rights. What would happen if those groups started collaborating with women artists to advance their causes? Could we win the battle for women’s equality faster by engaging people’s hearts and minds through the arts?
Thanks to a generous grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Arlene Goldbard and I are investigating these questions. To start the conversation, Arlene has interviewed ten amazing women artists (see the list below), and she will be writing about them for us in the coming months.
Meanwhile, I have been working on some model partnerships here in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you would like more information, please visit our Overview of the Harmony Project.
We always love to hear from you, and we hope you will join in this dialogue. If you know of any inspiring partnerships between women artists and organizations working for women’s rights, or if you have other thoughts you would like to share, please Write to Us or Visit our Facebook page.
Over the next few months, Arlene Goldbard will be sharing advice and wisdom from women artists who have strong track-records in collaborative projects. You will learn how to get started, what to consider as you enter into partnership, what makes the work strongest, and much, much more.
For now, we want to start by introducing you to the ten amazing women artists who took part in Arlene’s initial interviews.
Martha Boesing has written over 40 produced plays, led workshops, and directed plays for theaters throughout the country. From 1974-84, she was the Founder and Artistic Director At the Foot of the Mountain theater in Minneapolis (the longest-running professional women’s theater in the country). She has won several national awards including an NEA Fellowship, a Bush fellowship, and the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American playwrights. She now lives in Oakland, California, and most recently has created theater pieces for The Faithful Fools, a street ministry in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, and created Sylvia’s Advice on How to Age Gracefully on The Planet Denial, a theatrical adaptation Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia stories and cartoons.
Susan Cervantes has been a visual artist and muralist for 47 years, a pioneer in San Francisco’s community mural art movement, and the founder and director of the Precita Eyes Muralists in the Mission District of San Francisco, established in 1977. Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center is one of only three community mural centers in the United States. This multipurpose community-based arts organization has played an integral role in the city’s cultural heritage and arts education, with recent projects throughout San Francisco. She is responsible for more than 400 murals, including The San Francisco Women’s Building Mural, MaestraPeace, a multi-cultural, multi-generation collaboration of seven women artists.
Debra Chasnoff is a founder of Groundspark, an Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker nationally recognized for using film as an organizing tool for social justice campaigns, and a pioneering leader in the international movement working to create safe and welcoming schools and communities. Her films include Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up (about the gender and sexuality pressures that teens and young adults face today), It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, Let’s Get Real (about bias and bullying), and That’s a Family! (supporting youth growing up in diverse family structures).
Sarah Crowell, Artistic Director of Destiny Arts, has been a dancer and an arts educator for over 20 years. She’s worked at Destiny Arts Center since 1990 as a dance teacher, artistic director, workshop facilitator, and program development director, serving as the organization’s executive director from 2002-2007. Destiny Arts Center runs after-school, weekend and summer programs at the Center and Project DESTINY programs in over 20 pre-elementary, elementary, middle and high schools. Prior to working with Destiny Arts, Sarah directed the dance program at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco, and directed an award-winning hip-hop dance ensemble at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, California.
Beth Grossman is a socio-political artist who sees the visual as a way to create community dialog. She takes creative liberty with charged topics—such as “correct” history, the life-shaping force of religion and the power of social beliefs—and makes them accessible with beauty and humor. By shifting the context of familiar objects, words and images, she opens them up for fresh examinations that are by turn playful, stimulating and thought-provoking. Recent projects have included Seats of Power, in which city officials in her hometown of Brisbane, California, “put their keisters on the line for civic participation,” and “All the rest is commentary…“, presenting the Golden Rule from 12 world religions as a core vision of global human relations.
Meena Natarajan is the Executive and Literary Director of Pangea World Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, committed to creating an international ensemble of actors, writers and designers to bring exciting classical and contemporary literature from all over the world to the Twin Cities. Much of Pangea’s recent work focuses on issues relating to immigration; for instance, the company recently launched Hyphe-NATIONS: Immigrant Matters—América Latina, a community-based arts program designed to address issues facing the Latina/o immigrant community. Prior to cofounding Pangea, she was instrumental in founding and leading a theater company in India. Meena is past President (2000-2003) of Women Playwrights International.
Donna Porterfield is Managing Director of Roadside Theater, creating a body of drama based on the history and lives of Appalachian people and collaborating with others nationally who are dramatizing their local life. Donna has worked with Roadside since 1978, in roles that include writer, producer, teacher, and dramaturge. She scripted Voices from The Battlefront, which premiered in 1999, a performance/workshop with music that explores the personal stories of victims and survivors of domestic violence; and Thousand Kites, written in collaboration with prisoners, correction officers, and their families, part of a multi-media collaboration with Appalshop’s Holler to the Hood, addressing criminal justice issues.
Marty Pottenger is a widely known solo performance artist and director, and most recently, the founder/Director of Art At Work, a national initiative piloted with the City of Portland Maine’s departments, unions and elected officials to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects. Elements include Thin Blue Lines, a collaboration with Portland police officers and detectives to create a calendar by partnering with ten local poets & photographers. The “Police Poetry Calendar” was sold to benefit the family of an officer who died in the line of duty. Her Obie-award-winning project City Water Tunnel #3 was about the building of the largest public works project in the Western Hemisphere.
Rene Yung is a civic engagement artist who helps communities connect people, history and place to address social and cultural issues in the built environment. Her cross-disciplinary work engages community on multiple levels to articulate overlooked issues and assets; she aims for highly aesthetic works of art that enrich the environment as they help to build community for positive social change. Recent projects include Our Oakland: Eastside Stories, created to beautify the new East Oakland Community Library and create a new platform for community storytelling; and Chinese Whispers, a multi-phase, site-specific community-storytelling project about contemporary folk memories of the Chinese who helped build the Transcontinental Railroad and settlements of the American frontier.
Jawole Willa JoZollar
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is the founder and Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women, a renowned choreographer, and the Nancy Smith Fichter tenured professor in Florida State University’s Dance Department. Founded in 1984, UBW seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community. In addition to its work as a performance ensemble, UBW mounts an annual Summer Leadership Institute connecting dance professionals and community-based artists in a learning experience to leverage the arts as a vehicle for social activism and civic engagement and to strengthen the national network of practitioners.
About Arlene Golbard
Arlene Goldbard is a writer and consultant focusing on the intersection of culture, politics and spirituality. See her talks and writings at her Web site: www.arlenegoldbard.com.
Her most recent books include New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development (New Village Press, November 2006), Community, Culture and Globalization (Rockefeller Foundation 2002) and Clarity, a novel.
Her essays have been published widely, and she speaks frequently. She has provided advice and counsel to hundreds of community organizations, independent media groups, funders and policymakers. She is writing a new book on art’s public purpose. She serves as President of the Board of Directors of The Shalom Center.
WomenArts is supported by generous grants from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, the Peace Development Fund, East Bay Community Foundation, the Leo S. Guthman Fund, the Do A Little Fund, and by gifts of time, energy and money from artists and arts supporters around the world.
WomenArts (formerly known as The Fund for Women Artists) is a community of artists and allies dedicated to celebrating and supporting art by and about women. For an overview of our programs and services, please see the About Us section of our website.