International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. To celebrate this day we asked some of the amazing women of ArtPlace America to talk to us about the women integral to their project and history, and those leading the charge for change in the world.
As women we have a natural inclination to care and to nurture. Creative Placemaking is about caring for and nurturing not just a family, but an entire community! Our Project Manuia Samoa (Wellness Samoa) is designed to bring social and physical wellness through traditional Samoan healing arts by documenting an almost forgotten art in which the majority of the techniques are performed and passed down by women called Fofo's. In the 1800's Samoan Fofo's with their natural pharmacopoeia astonished European sailors and explorers by the innumerable knowledge of flora species used as herbal medicines. During this time diabetes, heart disease and cancer were not present here. We intend to reverse time by implementing these techniques using e-learning in a social environment. My Great Grandmother was a Fofo that not only healed in our village Faga'itua, but the entire Island. Her daughter, my grandmother, Princess Masaniai Lei'ato was one of the first women to fight for her rights to take the position as a Church Pastor which at that time was unheard of and condemned. I as a woman, and descendent to these great women, have a commitment in continuing our nurturing spirit for the well-being of all.
E le mafai ona Atina'e i
Luma o se Malo, ae le'i
sii luga ma le ava ma le faaaloalo o ona Tamaitai.
(A nation can rise no higher than its women)
Citizen Film is the kind of company I wish existed when I was in my twenties working in San Francisco's commercial film industry. Back then, it was shocking how few women were on set. As an aspiring cinematographer, it was easier to be “one of the boys” than to try to change the status quo. Now that I run my own company, my co-founders and I aim to foster a culture of mentorship and supportive leadership, making space for personal and professional growth opportunities that weren’t readily available in our early careers. As an emerging filmmaker, I heard a lot of “no’s” from leaders in the film community. I like to think of Citizen Film as a company that says “yes.” Yes to telling non-traditional stories, yes to spotlighting unlikely heroes, yes to trying new formats, venues, and ways to share documentaries. We believe in the power of storytelling to engage communities in dialogue about important problems and inspire active participation in solutions. Our creative placemaking connects the dots between local challenges, people affected by those challenges, and the leaders that can influence change.
Women leadership in Brownsville, Texas is intergenerational and omnipresent: Grandmothers lead nonprofits working for immigrant rights, and new mothers bring their children to community meetings as they advocate for improvements to public education systems. Las Imaginistas see how individual and collective efforts of female community organizers shape and advance equity the region. These leaders shift common assumptions about power and are constantly re-negotiating new spaces for collaboration. Taller de Permiso supports the development and cultivation of female leadership in the border region and Buena Vida neighborhood by directly soliciting and incorporating project input from women leaders in the community, developing narratives that highlight women as central figures and by building economic capacity for women to be financially independent. Our project is rooted in principles of radical imagination: we practice radical collaboration, radical archiving, and radical economic development. By acknowledging and supporting the central role that women play in manifesting a more equitable future of the region we aim to not only give tthem the credit and opportunities they deserve but to also create a more accurate account of history, in order that future generations may better understand what was and is possible.
My work aims to empower women and youth to boost the economy in creative ways. Traditionally, the economy—at least how we often think about and measure it—is run largely by men. But studies in Latin America show that there would be an immediate economic boost simply by empowering youth and women to start new enterprises. The capacity and ideas of youth and women are unique and valuable for everyday solutions because we live different paradigms and have different perspectives on the world. Often women more readily think about social impact. The same is true for Generation Z. My focus with StartUp Unidos is in boosting a regional economy by empowering women and young people to come up with creative solutions. I’m excited to bring this work to the VozFrontera, linking with youth expression and stories of the borderlands, to way to celebrate the assets in our community and build capacity for young people in Nogales, Arizona.
“Being a strong woman means to stay focused, remain humble, teachable, never lose sight of where I can from, never lose sight of the journey. Being a strong woman means being independent, holding my own." - Faith Bartley
Women have led, inspired and upheld The Village of Arts and Humanities from its founding by artist Lily Yeh over 30 years ago. Their creative power and leadership supports The Village in the same way it supports our community — bringing people together to solve difficult problems, healing wounded hearts through compassion and listening, seeing bold new pathways forward and holding out hope they can be achieved. This role is embodied by women like Brenda Toler, our Administrative Manager, who is our longest-serving staff member (over 20 years!) and first arrived as the mother of a Village student. Called "Aunt Brenda" by Village students, her desk is a lighthouse in dark times for countless young adults. Or Faith Bartley, Lead Fellow of the People's Paper Co-op. Originally a participant in a SPACES artist residency, Faith's clear vision that women in re-entry are underserved, and that supporting women more could transform our communities, led The Village to co-create a Women in Re-entry Fellowship and annual Women in Re-entry Day. Faith helps to design and lead both. Young women help to lead the Youth Advisory Board of our Creative Impact Studios Program, and attend T.U.F.F. Girls, run by Dr. Mari Morales-Williams, which fosters the next generation of young women activists. Women elders form the center of our Leaders and Builders Council, which advises The Village as a whole. The women who uphold The Village and our neighborhood could never fit in a single picture -- but we are honored to celebrate them all today.
Our Social Practice Lab artist residency, and the transformation of the Pearl Street alley behind our building have allowed Asian Arts Initiative to become a connector of the diverse array of people in the Chinatown North neighborhood. Women and girls are an important part of the population in our neighborhood and among our public audiences. Many of the artists who we’ve partnered with are women, who have had an opportunity to deepen their practice and bring their unique perspectives to community-engaged work. Women like photographer and pop-up book artist Colette Fu, who first forged ties with a local homeless shelter; and multimedia filmmaker Anula Shetty who along with Michael Kuetemeyer created the Time Lens project documenting scenes and stories along Pearl Street; and most recently sound artist Rachel Ishikawa, whose Chinatown Beats explores the ways we can transform everyday sounds into narratives that map our culture and define self and place. I also want to mention the significance of having the opportunity to work with a staff of talented and dynamic women, who continue to develop and deliver programs that expand the boundaries of what art can accomplish every day.
I am overwhelmed with support from the women of The Lilies Project. These are just a handful of our team who are so important to recognize on International Women's Day. Tracey and Andree courageously share the impacts of coal ash and life on bottled water. Filmmakers, like Dayna and Princess, capture these stories and harness their power in succinct documentary shorts. Amy began organizing in Belews Creek in 2013 and elevates the community concerns with state and federal government officials. Christine, the librarian, serves the rural community ranging from children, teenage mothers and grandmothers, including one who believed her email address was google.com. Patti, the president of the Stokes County Historical Society, finds the most impassioned community members to participate in the community events. Martha, the Director of Research at Old Salem, makes layered connections between the earliest roots of the region and the parallels of the work that we are creating with The Lilies Project over two hundred and fifty years later. Felicia effortlessly handles all of the bookkeeping and keeps me on task through the Stokes County Arts Council. Leslie's faith encourages us to see beyond the current state of Walnut Cove and towards a vision of renewal. Marie collected the stories of the community and synthesizes our gatherings into performance art as a means of healing and transformation. Finally my dear childhood friends, Jennifer and Danielle. Jennifer challenged me not to turn my back on my hometown as an adult. And my awaking from Danielle's cancer diagnosis demanded that I not keep silent.