On Friday, April 18 the Women’s Center at Ohio University held A Celebration of Women and Feminists in the Arts. The event featured a variety of art, including a documentary on the hip-hop scene in Athens, original poetry and paintings and even a Persian song and dance.
The event was suggested by student Alice Ragland to the Women’s Center program coordinator, Sarah Tucker Jenkins. The two planned the event all year, ultimately coming down to the relaxed yet empowering atmosphere of Friday’s event.
Alice Ragland and Sarah Tucker Jenkins at the Celebration of Women and Feminists in the Arts event, held at the Women’s Center.
“Alice was interested in doing an art event and we thought it was a really great idea,” said Jenkins. “I think people seemed to really enjoy it, we’ll definitely plan on doing it again next year.”
Jenkins appreciated the “interesting range of artistic mediums, talents and styles” included in the event.
The event, held in the Women’s Center room in Baker Center, was very intimate and eclectic. Participants with hair of all colors and styles sat in a circle on comfy chairs, listening intently to each artist explain their piece, asking questions and making inquiries after each performance.
This colorful board at the Women’s Center shows many events, affiliated groups and informational fliers.
Senior English and Spanish major Juannie Williams performed an original song called “Through With You,” mixing her experience with a guy and the experiences many women have with significant others. The song, which took an estimated 45 minutes to an hour to write, was written to a friend’s instrumental but performed a cappella at the event.
“When women come together, we empower each other,” Williams said. ” Feminist art is very important because we’re promoting equality; we want to feel as important, as recognized, as appreciated, respected, as men and don’t ever want to feel inferior to them because we don’t feel like we deserve that–or at least I don’t as a feminist.”
As Williams sang, participants snapped on rhythm, applauding and exclaiming words of praise and encouragement after the performance.
“THIS IS WHAT AN OU FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE” — Two posters hanging in the Women’s Center show a multitude of feminists, people of many genders and backgrounds.
Graduate student Zahra Khosravi dazzled the circle with two unique pieces. She sang one song in English, another in her native Persian language and performed a Persian dance. A smile on her face throughout the dance, her hips and arms moved hypnotically.
“After my husband and I moved to Athens for our education, I was a little homesick,” said Khosravi, whose mother had suggested the Persian song to remind her of home. “I hope people enjoyed it.”
Painting by senior Jesper Beckholt. Beckholt, who identifies as pangender, said the painting represents their struggle with femininity.
Art events like this one have been an empowering place for female artists and feminist artists alike, as the art world has reflected gender equalities.
Even events that claim to be inclusive can be discriminatory toward women. The Whitney Biennial, held in New York City every two years, is one that has sparked controversy in history. It garnered negative attention in 1987 when the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist group dedicated to gender equality in the art world, protested the fact that only 24% of featured artists were female. Check out this chart showing the percentage of female artists in recent years, which has declined since year 2010.
Even today, female artists face discrimination, despite efforts made by groups like the Guerrilla Girls and organizations focused on women and minority artists.
Events like the one held at the Women’s Center focus on pieces that are often overlooked in the mainstream art world, but are no less important or powerful than any other piece. They are vital to spreading equality and connecting people on an emotional level.
“I hope art, as with all other fields of study, will continue to progress and become more open to feminist artists,” wrote Jenkins in an email, prior to the event.
“We’re all connected and never have to feel alone,” said Williams. “Every person has something to say, we all have similar feelings, we all have similar goals. It’s to express ourselves and to empower others.”