The idea for SWAN Day grew out of a collaboration between WomenArts and Chicago’s WITASWAN (Women in the Audiences Supporting Women Artists Now). WITASWAN is an informal alliance of women who are using their power as consumers to increase opportunities for women artists. It began as an initiative of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Women. The complete history of WITASWAN is at www.films42.com/witaswan.asp.
Since WITASWAN was founded by Jan Lisa Huttner, a Chicago film critic, it was launched with a focus on women filmmakers. WITASWAN members make a commitment to see at least one film every month that is directed or written by a woman, whether it is in a theater or on a DVD.
Jan Lisa Huttner invited Martha Richards, the Executive Director of WomenArts, to speak at an American Association of University Women conference in Bloomington, IL in April 2007. (For pictures of this historic meeting see www.films42.com/witaswan/martha-richards.asp). The idea for SWAN Day was born during the car ride between Bloomington and Chicago, as Huttner and Richards discussed ways to build more direct connections between women artists and women audience members.
Huttner had demonstrated through her work with WITASWAN that there were women audience members who wanted to see more work by women, and Richards had built the WomenArts Network, an online directory of over 1,600 women artists from all over the world. In the car and over a shared pizza dinner, they came up with the idea of SWAN Day as a galvanizing annual event that would serve both artists and audience members.