Building Community

The WomenArts Arts & Social Justice Project

San Francisco Women's Building

The San Francisco Women’s Building commissioned this mural to inspire women with images of our history and collective wisdom.

The Harmony Project is a bold new addition to WomenArts’ ongoing efforts to bring the full power of women’s creativity to the struggle for women’s rights and social justice.

To create lasting social change, the women’s movement needs to shift firmly entrenched attitudes that are not entirely rational. Facts and figures are not enough to win the battles for equal pay, reproductive rights, more education, political power, or an end to violence. We need to reach people’s hearts as well as their minds.

Artists know how to do this, and there are many women artist-activists who are looking for ways to increase their impact.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, WomenArts developed the Harmony Project during 2011. Our initial goals were to explore the factors that encourage and inhibit partnerships between women artists and women’s organizations, and to identify ways to build more partnerships between women artists and women’s organizations who share the same goals.

Learn About Our Current Harmony Projects

WomenArts is working on three partnership projects in our home town of San Francisco as part of our Nathan Cummings Foundation grant. We will be publishing more information about or experiences working on these projects during 2012.

We are collaborating with Counterpulse and choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith on Our Daily Bread; with the Asian American Women Artists Association on a program called A Place of Her Own; and with composer Mary Watkins on her opera, Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story.

  • Our Daily Bread – In Our Daily Bread, Amara Tabor-Smith and her dancers are working with immigrant seniors and youth in neighboring housing projects. They are interviewing seniors about the eating traditions in their home countries, and then creating dance/theatre pieces with the young people as a way of teaching them about food and nutrition within their cultural contexts. Read More>>
  • A Place of Her Own – In A Place of Her Own, Asian women are creating art in response to the question, “If you had a place of your own, what would it be?” This question is especially powerful for Asian women who are often taught to be silent and stay in the background instead of claiming their space. WomenArts has been working with AAWAA on a new social service initiative where they are using the A Place of Her Own methodology as a healing exercise for Asian American trauma survivors. Read More>>
  • Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer StoryDark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story is a full-length opera by Mary Watkins. The piece was produced in a limited run by the Oakland Opera Theatre in November 2009. WomenArts is working with Mary Watkins to attract other producers so that the powerful story of this heroic female figure in the civil rights movement will reach larger audiences – especially audiences of women and girls. Read More>>

Read the Summary of the Harmony Project Findings 2011

WomenArts Executive Director Martha Richards and arts consultant Arlene Goldbard have compiled an 11-page summary of their findings from The Harmony Project 2011. They list the factors that encourage or inhibit partnerships between women artists and women’s organizations, and they make recommendations about ways to encourage more partnerships and overcome the obstacles. Read More>>

Read the Harmony Project Newsletters

We started the Harmony Project by doing in-depth interviews with ten women artists who have been successful in building community partnerships. We asked them to talk about the factors that helped or hindered their work, and we published a series of newsletters based on these interviews during the summer and fall of 2011.

The newsletters have been permanently archived on our site and you can read them by clicking on the links below.

Tips for Non-Profits about Working with Women Artists

If you work with a non-profit organization, there are many ways that you can add an exciting new dimension to your organization’s work by building relationships with the women artists in your community. This page will give you a few tips to get you started. Go to Tips>>

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the Nathan Cummings Foundation for investing in this groundbreaking project.