It all started with a Post-It, smacked defiantly on the wall of the Cultural Arts Center during the “You Call That Art?” exhibit of 2013. Part of the all-Ohio show featured a 25-foot timeline detailing where world history and art history collided. Unfortunately, the timeline made a colossal error, and the Post-It blared it in black Sharpie:
“Where are all the women? M.I.A.” The Cultural Art Center decided to face the criticism up front.
“Instead of sweeping it under the rug,” said artist Stephanie Rond. “They said, ‘Whoops, we did this, why did this happen? What can we do?”
To that end, the CAC contacted Rond and queried if she’d be interested in curating a show dedicated to women artists. She agreed, with two caveats: 1) everyone involved, from the artists to the panelists to the performers, would have to be paid, and 2) the show could not be during March, Women’s History Month. “It’s an inside joke among a lot of colleagues, the March thing,” she laughed. “We celebrate us all of the time.”
What started with a Post-It has ended with Dare To Be Heard, a more-than-an-exhibit spectacle taking over the city September 23 to November 5. The title is a nod to the omnipresent practice of “mansplaining” and the common habit of interrupting women when they speak.
“We are hearing over and over again, “speak up!”,” she explained. “And, no, you don’t get to interrupt me.”
For over a year, Rond worked with the Cultural Arts Center staff to pull together a grand celebration of artists—from choreographers, to performance artists, to poets, to fine artists. Many of the artists are from Ohio, but there is a national, and international presence as well. “I looked for artists who were having the same discussions about art, about women,” she said. “I looked for artists who used the word “feminist” in their statements.” Rond acknowledged that having “woman” as a qualifier to the word artist is an ongoing conversation. “It’s different for every artist,” she explained. “For me, being a woman street artist is important because it lets people know that a woman is doing this kind of art, but I feel differently about it every day.”
The show is not simply a roster of women artists; it features works that address issues of violence, harassment based on gender or sexual orientation, reproductive rights, fair pay, quality of life, creativity, and equality across the board. Sadly—yet frequently—women’s voices are not part of these discussions. The show is not just a chance to see thought-provoking art; it’s an opportunity to start a thought-provoking community conversation, and doing so with a diverse list of in-town and visiting artists.
One artist that Rond is especially excited about bringing to Columbus is photographer and visual artist Nona Faustine. “This is a collection of real rock stars,” she said. “I’ve been following Nona Faustine for a long time and she does this amazing work and I didn’t think she would be accessible at all, but she was the first to get back to me.”
Columbus is sure to be well represented with the work of Lisa McClymont, Amy Leibrand, April Sunami, Liz Roberts, Maira Hashmi, Susan Van Pelt Petry, and more.
The entire community is invited to be active during this show; to have their own voices heard during tie-in events. There will be an on-going ‘zine project that encourages feedback from visitors, workshops, a film screening, panel discussions and lecture, a spoken word poetry event, and an evening of movement.
Arguably, this event is bringing together more women artist’s voices during an exhibition that we in Columbus have ever seen…or heard.
For a full line-up of dates an events, visit culturalartscenteronline.org or Dare To Be Heard’s Facebook page.