Tag: National Women’s History Month

Leading Lady : Stephanie Kong

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the final next Leading Lady for March 2017: Stephanie Kong

Stephanie Kong, Program Director for WonderRoot

Where do you work and what do you do?
As the WonderRoot Programs Director, I am responsible and accountable for the design and management of educational, artistic, and public programs which fulfill the mission and vision of WonderRoot. As a senior member of staff, I champion strategic plan initiatives focused on the systematic integration of arts and activism into programs, the evaluation of the social and financial impact of programs, and the management of program staff. I develop indicators of success and program assessment plans, recommend new programs, and oversee the fulfillment of grant commitments. I graduated from the Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta in 2016 and participated on the review committee for the 2017 cohort. I currently participate in the Georgia Council for Nonprofits’ Momentum Program and the Blank Foundation’s inaugural Audience Building Roundtable cohort. I also oversee a fiscally-sponsored project, the Humble Telescopes, with my partner.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have always been interested in arts. My mother invited her brother from Seoul to live with us in America, start a new life, and to help her raise me and my sister. He is a calligrapher and painter, and he filled our tiny apartments with his illustrations and paintings. My mother was a photographer, but she focused on it as a hobby rather than a craft. Her profession as a pharmacist created greater opportunities for her in this country.

Fugus, 2012, Photograph by Stephanie Kong

Art always has a home in my life. I write short stories and obsessively take photos. I use art as a means of expression and release, and it has been a very private practice. I use photography as a way to document present histories. Being a child of an immigrant from a war-torn country, we do not hold many records that recount who is in our family. I am an emotional hoarder, and I use photos as a means of archiving my life and the context and complexities of the world that continue to shape me.

I have been in arts nonprofit work for almost two years, but I have always had art integrated into my professional life. I hold a Bachelors in Social Work and pursued Art Therapy. I graduated during the recession so I turned to progressive educational pedagogy and integrated arts as the bloodline of that approach.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I (still) want to be a cartoon voice actor, photographer for National Geographics, and a movie director. I thought I’d be the next Steven Spielberg after I watched Jurassic Park.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I’d rather have a potluck or dinner party like Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, and everyone has a plus 1 including Nina Simone, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Asata Shakur, Rebecca Solnit, Yayoi Kasuma, Camilla Paglia, Pussy Riot, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Patti Smith. We’d talk about what I talk about with my friends- our relationships with ourselves, our bodies, our lovers, nature, the state of politics, travelling, food, and cats.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Obviously my mom has had the most direct influence on my life. Perhaps Confucius. Apparently I come from his lineage, and the Korean culture is heavily influenced by his philosophy. There are aspects that I do and do not agree with, and I do not prescribe myself to the constraints of some of the values, however, I also view some of them as utterly beautiful.

How is art a passion for you?
Art is a form of storytelling. It is a mean of archiving emotions and events.

Shroud of Jeju, 2001, Photograph by Stephanie Kong

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
The rise of women is the rise of the nation.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The artists and their passions. I love being with artists when they are fully present and cooking or creating or walking and intentional about each action they take. I love doing that.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
Empathy

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
www.wonderroot.org
https://c4atlanta.org/project/humble-telescopes/

Leading Lady : Mary Ruth Ralston

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the next Leading Lady for March 2017: Mary Ruth Ralston

Mary Ruth Ralston is a local Atlanta actor, education artist, fight choreographer, director, and lighting designer.

Where do you work and what do you do?
I work at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company where I am an actor and education artist, as well as sometime fight choreographer, director, and lighting designer.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I grew up in Athens, GA with great exposure to the arts and started dancing at about age 4. I really got into acting and theater my freshman year of high school.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a dancer, marine biologist, and/or Jedi knight.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Ooh, tough one. Right now I think I’d like to sit down and chat with Virginia Wolfe about art, time, culture, and gender. I just read her incredible novel “Orlando”, and I’d like very much to talk with her about it.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents. They both worked very hard to encourage my imagination and to instill in me the desire to work hard, improve myself professionally and personally, and do my best to maintain a strong sense of empathy, humor, and ethics.

Mary Ruth Ralston in Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry VI.

How is art a passion for you?
It is honestly very difficult for me to imagine not being a performing artist. I feel very strongly that it is what I need to be doing, and it is a career that, although often difficult, is uniquely challenging and rewarding.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
I think it’s moving in a great direction. We’re still in a lot of places facing the old problems of lack of complex female characters in plays and lack of female leadership in the arts in general, but I’m seeing more and more women breaking the mold of outdated gender stereotypes and taking charge as directors, writers, and leaders of arts organizations. I know so many amazing women who are becoming cornerstones of the Atlanta arts scene working incredibly hard to push for diversity and intersectionality. Also, being someone whose passion is classical theater, which can be terribly restrictive for women, I’m benefiting a lot personally from the Shakespeare Tavern and other theaters being willing to cast outside the traditional gender binary.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
I’ve experienced some really moving displays of cooperative and supportive spirit among Atlanta’s artists. I’ve seen so many of my friends and colleagues encourage, uplift, and celebrate each other’s work. I think we have an amazing community of artists who support each other and enable growth, creativity, and collaboration in our city.

Mary Ruth Ralston (pictured right) shows off her skills in the the famous Hamlet vs. Laertes fight from Fern Theatre’s all female production of Hamlet.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I’m hoping that I get to continue playing parts that are traditionally played by men and encourage out-of-the-box casting in that regard, but I think the most important thing I can do is to keep encouraging students to embrace empathy, passion, and open-mindedness and impart the idea that a career in the arts is not just possible but important and useful.

Leading Lady : Laura Cole

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the next Leading Lady for March 2017: Laura Cole

Laura Cole, Director of Education and Training for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse.

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am an actor, director and Director of Education and Training for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I started making up plays when I was 8 or 9, and joined a really strong children’s theatre program when I was in middle school, which was also when I decided to be a professional actor, singer and dancer. I got an acting degree from a strong college program, along with choreography experience and moved to Atlanta to begin my acting career. I have been in Atlanta ever since with a few out of town gigs, most notably an off-Broadway appearance in 2012.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Once I realized being a crow, a bronc-buster or a starship science officer were less than realistic career goals I settled on actor. I expanded that definition to include modern dance choreographer and eventually added teacher, director and mentor to the list.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Adrienne Herndon of Atlanta would be a great place to start, but I would also really like to visit with Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim (early female playwright and nun) and find out what her life was like.

Laura Cole as Mephistopheles in the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus”.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Besides my mother, who was one of the strongest feminists I’ve ever met, my teacher-mentors made such a difference in my life and career. Early on Mrs. Betsy Lubs and Mrs. Ruth Longman, both high school teachers, taught me how to be an artist and a scholar. My choreography and modern dance teacher at Northwestern, Lynne Anne Blom, was the most influential and impactful person on the artist/teacher I am today. She saw something in me that no one else did, she encouraged it and nurtured it, she mentored me through four years of college and quietly taught me how to be a teacher. Her example is the single most important influence on my art since then.

How is art a passion for you?
There isn’t anything else I can or want to do.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
In theatre there are still more women in the education side of the business than men, and the artistic and management positions are more often filled by men than women. I personally don’t want to be an artistic or managing director BUT the education director of any professional theater in America should be equally valued, recognized and compensated for their work- I imagine they aren’t because education is undervalued in American society and women are often undervalued……

Laura shows off her Suzi Bass Award for best Sound Design in the New American Shakespeare Company’s production of the Tempest.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
There is SO much!!!! I started here a long time ago and the growth, even after 9/11 and the Recession in the mid-2000’s, has been amazing. There are so many young artists staying here after school and practicing their craft, which 30 years ago was almost unheard-of. We keep growing even though arts and entertainment and the arts-in-education are not yet fully valued and adequately financially supported by state and local governments the way the movie/TV industry has been encouraged with tax breaks, etc. When THAT happens I will be over the MOON!

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I didn’t plan it but the growth of full-fledged Education departments at area theaters and the growth of Teaching Artistry as a career option is a contribution I can look at and feel satisfaction.

If I could do one thing (beside professional acting) I would focus on mentoring and teaching others how to be a strong mentor both in the arts industry and in other mainstream industries in Atlanta.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
www.shakespearetavern.com
we’re on FB and Twitter, too.

Leading Lady : Kemi Bennings

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the final next Leading Lady for March 2017: Kemi Bennings

Kemi Bennings, freelance entrepreneur & life designer

Where do you work and what do you do?

I am a freelance entrepreneur, artistic “world – bridger” and life designer. I have a background in producing shows and cultural event programming, as well as the health and wellness industry. I bring my creativity, knowledge and experience to both worlds in an effort to impact and inspire change. As an artistic “world – bridger”, I combine multimedia, theatrics, music and independent artistry to create innovative productions and cultural events that move, touch and inspire people…
In the health and wellness industry, I am a health educator and life coach.  My primary focus is holistic transformative healing, where I empower clients to do the necessary work to create the lives they desire.  
 
When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I became interested in the arts through poetry; I found my way into Atlanta’s artistic vortex in 1995 by way of an invitation to a local poetry reading held at Patti Hut Café on Thursday nights. The place was called Rio Mall; it was once located on the corner of Piedmont and North Avenue. Walking in Patti Hut Café was like going down the proverbial rabbit-hole, because there were a matrix of pathways that led to an experience of the Atlanta vibe in all of its glory and genre. From the West End to Midtown, Decatur to Downtown Atlanta, living rooms were turned into literary safe houses; there were people who had magic in their dream coats, stars in their eyes, a poem freshly penned and flyers in their pockets which led to other dimensions of artistic and live music hot spots – places where like-minded artists and those serious about their craft dwelled. From that moment, my life would change…I began producing shows in 2002 beginning with the premiere Southeast female showcase, Soul Sista’s Juke Joint, and I have been at it and expanding my scope since then.
 
What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?

I kinda I knew that I would become a nurse as I gravitated to the Red Cross around the age of 13, becoming a youth candy striper at a local hospital.  It was also in my genes – my grandmother was a nurse.  But I was also fascinated with culinary arts, watching all of the Saturday morning cooking shows and practicing in the kitchen.  Aside from being a nurse, I have created the opportunity to flex my gourmet vegan/vegetarian and personal chef skills in the film industry!

photo credit: Sue Ross; Kemi Bennings is shown on set for the 10th Anniversary shoot of A Great Day In Atlanta.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?

There are several women I admire, most of which I’d ask the same questions (did you want to list any of those questions?), but lunch!  Hands down, I’d have to have lunch with Harriet Tubman.  Not only from the perspective of her powerful contribution to African American(s) and American History, but what got her there – in mind, in consciousness. Therefore, I’d focus my conversation on my interest in human symbiotic relationships, in particular the relationship between human, life force (Source), and life purpose, relating it to the role of artists.
 
I’d sit and listen. I’d ask questions based upon my belief that we are a race of artists; a unique family of independent artists – underground, like the days of the Harriet Tubman, in the trenches working to empower peace, unity, equality and social change.
 
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

There are many people who have had tremendous influence in my life.  My parents have been two of my greatest influences, as they taught me values, compassion and love for humankind.   But, artists have been a unique influence in my life.  The role we play in society – imagine a world without art or music.  I’m continually inspired by the music we make, the pictures we paint, the poems we pen and the creating of artistic lanes unseen.

photo credit: Maurice Thompson

How is art a passion for you?
I am passionate about art and music being powerful mediums for social change: how we utilize them to inspire, entertain and educate.  I’ve been experimenting with life: this “notion” that we, a diverse and global community of artists, are guided by and have a unique relationship with a higher source.  It is my contention that within that source is where creativity emerges, where artist and spirit meet, where art and art form are born, where we become “alive” and where we have the potential to make great contributions and create change in the world. 

 
What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
When we speak about the equality and representation of women in the creative workforce, what we are really talking about is honoring the value that women bring to society as a whole – the qualities that are innate to us as women, our respective stories, in addition to our unique and diverse perspectives of creativity.
 
I feel that overall gender inequality is still prevalent.  We saw it recently, when the presiding chair interrupted Sen. Elizabeth Warren while reading Coretta Scott’s letter, and Bernie Sanders (I like Bernie, but the fact is that he is male) was allowed to read the letter.  We must be diligent and courageous in making sure women’s voices are heard and acknowledged (and those voices influence and drive change), and we must come together in a way that we ourselves have not seen in our lifetime.
 
What excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
What excites me most about the  Atlanta arts/music scene is that just beneath the surface, there is always a melting pot of new artists who are willing to push the envelope.  I’m excited about the artists that live in the south, as well as, the artists that are attracted to Atlanta (The South).  I love the diverse perspectives and how they sometimes become mixed with Southern hospitality and what I feel exists as an undertone for those that dig deeper; the inherent responsibility to build community, create awareness and impact social change.  Also, I appreciate that there still exists a lineage of artists, trailblazers and creatives from the late 80’s, early 90’s that are still here to support the ever-evolving Atlanta arts scene.  
 
What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
Continue to produce fresh, thought-provoking and innovative programming. Continue identifying, supporting and collaborating with creatives of all genres.
Where can we find you on Social Media?
FB: Kemi Bennings
Twitter: Kemi Bennings
IG: Kemi Bennings

Leading Lady : Violette L Meier

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the next Leading Lady of March 2017: Violette L. Meier

Violette shows off the many stories she has written and published.

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a writer and co-Founder of Viori Publishing and co-Founder of Digidence Social Media Marketing.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?

I have always been interested in the arts, especially writing. I have bee writing since I was 12 years old and I have been published for about 10 years.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a fashion designer and an astronaut. I am still very much in love with fashion and space, but my true gift is writing.

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
There are so many women I would love to meet. If I had to pick one it would probably be Maya Angelou. I would ask her how did she learn to be so strong and comfortable in her skin. I find her confidence and inner beauty incredibly powerful.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My mother. She is the epitome of strength; always pushing forward no matter the circumstance. I want to be extremely successful so that I can give her everything her heart desires.

“Ruah the Immortal” written by Violette L. Meier is a story of love, betrayal, and preternatural power penetrating one to the very soul. It is a tale of two sisters who wiggle through never-ending obstacles, wrestle with the sacred and the profane, and ultimately face death in hopes of finding life.

How is art a passion for you?
All I need is the air that I breathe and to write. Writing is my art and my purpose.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Equality is the only way. It is illogical to consider it any other way. Equal work deserves equal pay.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?

Atlanta is my home and it is exciting to see it evolve and grow artistically. I want to help propel this movement into something that can influence the world in a positive way.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I want to contribute a different and valuable perspective on speculative fiction. I want my work to entertain and enlighten.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
www.VioletteMeier.com
Facebook: Violette L. Meier
Instagram: violettemeier
Twitter: violettemeier

Nominate a Leading Lady

Nominate a Leading Lady in the arts for National Women's History Month.

C4 Atlanta is proud to announce the return of our Leading Ladies blog series in support of National Women’s History Month. National Women’s History Month is a project of the National Women’s History Project.  This blog series celebrates female-identifying individuals in our community who are super stars and worthy of distinction for their work in the arts.

Nominations for this series are now open and ongoing until February 28th. Anyone can nominate a Leading Lady! We want to know: “Who are the women that inspire you?” Arts workers in all disciplines can be nominated, including arts administrators. To nominate, please fill out the nomination form:

CLICK HERE TO NOMINATE A LEADING LADY

Nominees will be featured here on our blog throughout the month of March, starting March 1. Check back to see all of the amazing folks who break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

 

Ife Williams Discusses Women Leading Socially Engaged Art

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include

Ife Williams,
Ife Williams, Executive Director at the Hudgens Center for the Arts

the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Ife Williams.

Where do you work and what do you do?

I am a sculptor and the Executive Director at the Hudgens Center for the Arts.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

An artist.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up?

The earliest favorite artist I can remember was Degas. He was soon followed by Georgia O’Keefe, Arshile Gorky, Rothko, Pollock, Brancusi and Henry Moore, all before I graduated from high school.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

My mother is without a doubt the biggest influence on my life as an artist. She gave me my first art lessons, teaching me to draw what I saw rather than what I knew and she never made me feel that pursuing a career in the arts was anything to reconsider.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts?

I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t interested in the arts. I remember going to the art museum with my mother and sisters, when I was still in single digits, and I remember my sisters getting tired of being there long before I was.

Hudgens Center for the Arts
Hudgens Center for the Arts

 

How long have you been in your line of work?

Twenty-two years in arts administration, forever as an artist.

How is art a passion for you?

Art offers opportunities for me to connect to the world around me through unique vantage points. The emotion, energy and narrative that can be contained in each piece is endless. A single piece of art can offer new insights each time it is experienced and the conversations that can come from two differing perceptions is what draws me to art. It is what makes every exhibition, every studio visit and every artist talk a memorable experience. For me, it is inspiring to watch others engage with new genres, styles, content, and mediums. It is inspiring to see how perspectives shift as artworks are shown within varied contexts: alongside other artists, in unexpected venues and against unforeseen backdrops. The deepest connections are made with art and artists in an instant and witnessing that instant is amazing.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts?

Women working in the arts face the same gender equality challenges faced by women in other fields. Quite often, gender challenges are magnified in the arts because regardless of a woman’s role in the art world there are so many opportunities to be seen as a sexualized object that is intended as entertainment, not to be taken seriously. At the same time, unlike many fields, women in the arts have the opportunity to bring these issues to the forefront of their work. Socially engaged artwork provides an opportunity to push audiences to confront inequities and open dialogues that would otherwise be avoided or ignored and more and more often these works are finding a place in galleries, museums and private collections around the world.

What in your profession has given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment?

I have received the greatest satisfaction from being in the position to nurture projects that connect studio artists with communities to develop meaningful permanent installations. The success of these projects is most evident in the response of the community to the newly installed works. There is so much learning and discovery throughout the process. I have also enjoyed bringing artists together to discover each other’s works and share approaches to their mediums, communities and audiences.

Ife's hands hard at work throwing clay
Ife’s hands hard at work throwing clay

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

I make it a practice not to look back with regret and as an arts administrator, I believe the path I have taken has brought me to where I am today. Of course every moment has not been perfect but I am happy with where I am and I’m proud of the journey it took to get here.

As an artist, I would’ve explored ceramics as a medium earlier and I would’ve dedicated a number of years to experience more residency opportunities, domestically and abroad.

What would you do again?

I would fall in love with art as a child and share my love for the arts at every opportunity. I would encourage others to engage in the arts as lovers, learners and leaders.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?

The depth and range of the artists in the Atlanta arts community excites me as do the  innovative exhibition spaces that continue to evolve alongside ever-changing engagement strategies. No matter how long I am here and no matter how many artists I meet or how many exhibitions I see, there is always a new voice, a new spin, a new artists’ collective to sit down with and in most cases all that newness comes with a familiar face. I love the mix of new and old, not unlike the phoenix, the Atlanta arts community is continually renewing, revisiting, and rejuvenating from its heart.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community?

I strive to expand the reach of our local arts community by developing programming that stretches beyond the metro region, connects artists with communities and encourages everyone to engage in the arts.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work?

www.thehudgens.org

20150924_073559-1
A study from Ife’s ‘Enlightenment Series’

Bio:

While she has served in her capacity as Executive Director of the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts since January 2016, Ms. Williams joined the Atlanta arts community in 2005 as the Public Art Program Coordinator with Fulton County Arts and Culture, (FCAC). She went on to manage the Contracts for Services Program and held the positions of Deputy Director of Arts & Culture (acting), and Interim Director of Arts and Culture. Through her tenure at FCAC she learned what it means to serve the public, facilitate genuine community engagement, and provide guidance to elected officials. Her professional experience includes the role of museum curator at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Miami); development consultant at the Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (Miami); assistant collections registrar for the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington (Seattle); and most recently Program Development Specialist at Fulton County Arts and Culture (Atlanta). Ms. Williams holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in Sculpture/Metalsmithing from the University of Michigan, pursued her master’s degree in Museum Studies at Syracuse University, and received a certificate of nonprofit organizational management from the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

Collins Goss Talks About Raising Awareness for Atlanta Arts

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

Collins Goss, Development Manager of Horizon Theatre
Collins Goss, Development Manager of Horizon Theatre

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

Where do you work and what do you do? I work as the Development Manager for the Horizon Theatre Company. I am in charge of all of Horizon’s fundraising efforts, including the annual fund, major gifts, foundation grants, government contracts for services, and special events. I also work closely with our Board of Directors, and I do a chunk of the project management work for Horizon’s community-based projects.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Honestly, I never really had a set goal. Most kids would list teacher, nurse, vet, doctor, but I never had a specific thing that I knew I wanted to do.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? I loved to read growing up, so most of my favorite artists were writers. I could not get enough of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series as a teenager. I really, really loved classic lit like Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? I have been so lucky to have had several wonderful influencers and mentors. I had two teachers in high school who blew my world wide open: one was from South Africa and one was from Queens. They somehow ended up teaching in South Georgia where I grew up, and they exposed me to a world much larger than I had known. My biggest influences, though, are definitely my parents. In my completely unbiased opinion, they are the greatest people on earth who give and love unconditionally and who get up every day to make the world better even when it is really hard and no one says thank you. They taught (and still teach) me so many things, but “thank you” was a big one. Everyone is worthy of your attention and gratitude no matter who they are.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work? I took dance lessons from preschool through high school. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it and still enjoy being a dance patron. I got into theatre the way a lot of kids do: my friends in high school were in the one act play and spring musical. I wanted in on the fun too. The alternative was playing basketball or jumping hurdles, and no one wants me to do either one. Yikes. I think I started unofficially working in some aspect of arts admin in high school and just never stopped. I am still not quite sure how that happened.

How is art a passion for you? Art is something that you can enjoy all of your life, and there is always a new show, art form, or artist to discover. The ability to keep discovering is what makes art a passion for me.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts? I work in an office of all women, and this has been the norm in most of my jobs in arts admin. I don’t know if that is typical or not, but I think it is awesome. Working in the arts full time is not easy. The hours can be long and the days frustrating, but women get stuff done and totally defy the odds. 🙂

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park
Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again? The first thing that comes to mind is working on Theatre in the Park last summer. Horizon produced Avenue Q in Piedmont Park for a five night run in June 2015. That’s right. We produced a full scale Broadway musical outside in the middle of Atlanta in June with 28 puppets, a band, and 11 actors. Most of the tickets were given away for free, and we had more than 7700 people join us in the park that week. Moments like this are the reason I got into this business. All these people from all over the Atlanta area left their houses and Netflix to come outside, sit on a blanket, eat a picnic, and watch puppets sing about growing up and finding their purpose. Would I do it again? Heck yes.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? Atlanta artists and administrators just make it happen in Atlanta, and their work is amazing. No one seems to take no for an answer, and I think that is pretty cool. There has been a lot of talk about Atlanta’s public art scene, and I am really excited to see what comes out of this. We have tons of space that could benefit from an art intervention: the Little Five Points plaza (Horizon is tackling this one starting in April, so stay tuned!), MARTA stations, and so many more.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community? I would really like to be a part of raising awareness of all the arts offerings in Atlanta and the impact the arts have on our communities. There are several individuals and arts organizations that are committed to advocating for the arts whether it is on the government level, among business leaders, or with individual patrons. I am really excited about an audience development project I am working on with the Atlanta Intown Theatre Partnership (AITP). AITP is made up of Horizon, 7 Stages, Actor’s Express, the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and Theatrical Outfit, and we are committed to pooling resources and doing things together that we could not do as individual theatres. Currently we want to raise live theatre going as a top of mind thing to do among 20-40 year olds who live/work/play along the Atlanta Beltline. We are still in the very early stages of the project, but I see tremendous potential for success.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

www.horizontheatre.com

Twitter: @horizontheatre

Facebook: Horizon Theatre Company

Instagram: @horizontheatre

Little Five Arts Alive Program launching in April 2016: http://www.littlefiveartsalive.com/

Bio?

Collins Goss (Development Manager) joins the Horizon Theatre Company after working for the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. At UA Theatre & Dance, she served as the digital communications, marketing, and patron services managers throughout her three years. She has also worked for the Texas Shakespeare Festival and Rose of Athens Theatre in Athens, GA. No matter the location, audience development and communication have been the focus of her work, and she is excited to be a part of the staff and community at the Horizon Theatre. Collins completed her MFA in Theatre Management from the University of Alabama in December and has BA degrees in English and Theatre from the University of Georgia.

Aisha Bowden Discusses Being a Role Model in the Arts

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

Aisha Bowden, Co-Founder of Atlanta Music Project and Conductor of the AMPlify Choir
Aisha Bowden, Co-Founder of Atlanta Music Project and Conductor of the AMPlify Choir

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Aisha Bowden.

Where do you work and what do you do?

I am the Co-Director of the Atlanta Music Project.   AMP provides intensive music instruction to underserved youth right in their neighborhood. We believe that by building youth orchestras and choirs in Atlanta’s underserved neighborhoods, we are offering youth pathways to success.  At AMP, social change is the goal; music is the method. Within AMP, I Co-Founded AMPlify, the choral program of the Atlanta Music Project. That’s where I spend the majority of my time and energy.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

From my earliest memories, I wanted to be a teacher.  I was turned on to the idea of becoming a music teacher by my high school band director.  Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? Numerous: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. I loved playing Bach as a child.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

Again numerous. Other than my parents, my cooperating teacher during student teaching in college held the biggest influence on me.  I thought being a school music teacher meant coming in and doing the same thing every day.  Her students performed all over Washington, DC, and she created innovative programs and performance opportunities for them. She really opened my eyes to the possibilities.

Aisha accompanying at the piano.
Aisha accompanying at the piano.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?

I’ve been interested in the arts for as long as I can remember.  As a baby, I would bang on the pew in front of me to mimic the organist in church. I was fascinated by his ability to shift the energy in the building.  We purchased a piano when I was 4 and I started lessons soon after. I started performing as a child and began conducting choirs as a teenager. I was a piano kid, a band kid and a choir kid – but of course, choir was number one.

How is art a passion for you?

Art is my lifeline.  It is my purpose and my calling.  Through it, I am allowed to empower the most vulnerable amongst us – our youth. I am an activist by nature and I live to lift up those around me. My role at AMP allows me to fuse my passion for creativity with my compassion for others.

Aisha performs in a jam session with the Atlanta Music Project staff.
Aisha performs in a jam session with the Atlanta Music Project staff.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts?

As a businesswoman, I serve as an advocate for women in the arts through my daily work. I recognize my privilege in being able to represent my organization in the company of male-led businesses. It is my honor to serve as an example for not only the children in my program, but for some members of my staff as well.

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again?

Looking back, my greatest moments of satisfaction have come when I see youth being transformed before my eyes due to choral performance.  When I see a child on stage filled with pride and self-confidence, I know that we are doing our job.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?

I love living in a city that is buzzing with excitement as it relates to the arts. Atlanta’s arts community is alive and well.  The city embraces the artists, and gives them space to impact the city.

Members of the AMPlify Choir after a performance at Old Fourth Ward Park on the Atlanta Beltline.
Members of the AMPlify Choir after a performance at Old Fourth Ward Park on the Atlanta Beltline.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community?

I hope to develop an arts organization that impacts not just the youth in the community or Atlanta schools, but makes a mark on the Atlanta music scene in general.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

Www.atlantamusicproject.org

https://www.facebook.com/AtlantaMusicProject

https://twitter.com/ATLmusicproject

https://www.instagram.com/atlmusicproject/

https://twitter.com/AishaATL

https://www.facebook.com/aisha.bowden

https://www.instagram.com/sheislife/

Bio?

Aisha Bowden is the Co-Founder and Director of AMPlify, the Choral Program of the Atlanta Music Project. In this role, she overseas all AMPlify operations and directs the AMPlify Choir. In addition she holds strategic and administrative responsibilities for the AMP.

Aisha completed the Sistema Fellows program in 2012, a prestigious, post-graduate fellowship of New England Conservatory that trains gifted musicians and educators to lead El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States.

Prior to the fellowship, Aisha enjoyed a career as an award-winning public school music educator for eleven years.  As Chair of the Music Department at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC , Ms. Bowden provided General and Vocal Music Instruction to the full student body, directed the Thomson Choir and managed several partnerships with leading arts organizations, to include the Washington National Opera and The Choral Arts Society of Washington, DC.

Her performance background, which includes travel to Switzerland, Germany and Gabon, Africa, inspired Ms. Bowden to organize frequent performance opportunities for her students, designed to broaden their exposure to and understanding of the world around them. Under her direction, the Thomson Choir performed for the King and Queen of Norway, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Bicentennial Celebration of Abraham Lincoln at which President Obama was the keynote speaker. The Thomson choir has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN and Good Morning America as well as local television networks. During her tenure in the DC Public School system, Ms. Bowden also served as accompanist for the All-City Honors Chorus and a General Music Curriculum Writer for the DCPS Division of Music. Additionally, Ms. Bowden has been recognized for excellence in arts education by the Arts for Every Student Program, Who’s Who in American Educators and the Mayors Arts Awards. She is also featured in the April 2012 issue of Teaching Music, a publication of the National Association for Music Education.

After relocating from Washington,DC to Georgia in 2009, Ms. Bowden conducted middle school choirs with Cobb County Public Schools and worked as a Choral Teaching Artist for the pilot year of the Atlanta Music Project (AMP). That experience with AMP influenced her decision to enroll in the 2011-2012 Sistema Fellows Program and subsequently create the first Sistema-inspired choral program in Georgia. Aisha brings expertise in choral directing, public school education, community programming and non-profit management.

 

Celebrating Leading Ladies in the Arts

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

IMG_9320With that being said, we’d love to introduce our first leading lady, Catherine Pfitzer.

 

Where do you work and what do you do?

I’m the Executive Director of Voices of Note, Inc, the non-profit that produces the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus and the Atlanta Women’s Chorus.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

I grew up in southern California, and attended the Orange County School for the Arts, where was trained as a singer and actress. I studied film and media in college and knew I’d be staying in the performing arts.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up?

Idina Menzel was my idol in high school.

catherine 2Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

Two people have influenced my character to the greatest degree, and they couldn’t be more opposite in nature from each other. My father is an analytical mechanical engineer, and President of a thriving business he founded 25 years ago. He is often the smartest person in the room, and he taught to apply logic to every situation. He also taught me how to win at Texas Hold ‘em… unless he is at the table, in which case my best defense is to avoid sitting to his right. This, along with being the only girl amongst my three brothers, taught me – above all – to be resilient, and never accept defeat.

Secondly, my mother is an artist of many disciplines; she is highly creative and intuitive. She is loving, affectionate, sensitive, and at times, emotional. It wasn’t until I was over 30 that I realized she had taught me the meaning of unconditional love. Not in an identifiable, specific lesson, per se, but by setting a daily example of being sensitive, welcoming and graceful, without giving up one iota of her strong warrior spirit. She is one of the most amazing women I have ever known.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?

I moved from Southern California to the south to finish college, and I quickly experienced culture shock when I discovered (comparatively) how few opportunities there were for performing artists and filmmakers. As a performer myself, I wanted an outlet for my own artistic expression, and I decided to be proactive about creating such opportunities. While still in college in Birmingham, AL, I started an improvisational comedy troupe, the first of its kind in the city. While casting collaborators, I quickly discovered the vast untapped talent pool that existed there. There were artists desperately thirsting for outlets and opportunities, in what I would call a cultural desert. After college, I started working at the Sidewalk Film Festival as its program manager, and it was then that I was hooked on arts administration. That is, providing previously nonexistent opportunities for artists to express, present, and hone their talents felt so intrinsically good that I felt I had found my calling. I went on to become the Executive Director of that organization, and later moved to Atlanta to continue my journey.

How is art a passion for you?

My love of performance aside, there are two primary reasons that I’m passionate about art:

1) Because it inspires us to change.

2) Because we need it to survive.

I believe that art in all its forms is one of the most direct influences on social change. When individuals are made to truly feel, or are swept up by a powerful experience, it has the capability to inspire them to self-reflection that sometimes causes them to see life more openly than they previously had.

It’s been said that art – especially music – does not function in society as mere luxury or entertainment. Throughout history, example after example can be cited of works of music and art created in the most unimaginable environments —amidst famine, oppression, genocide. In historical circumstances where these victims were without food or shelter — without money, without hope, without recreation, without basic respect — they were not without art. Leading us to the obvious conclusion that art is as necessary as any other survival tool.

This sentiment is resonates in Voices of Note’s upcoming work, the first ever joint concert between its two choruses, the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus and the Atlanta Women’s Chorus. And Justice For All runs March 18-19th.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts?

It is fitting that I’m answering these questions on International Women’s Day! I could write novels about how this permeates the arts. In short, I believe that the national trends (a glass ceiling of 78%) we see in the workplace carry over into the arts and its equality.

Women are underrepresented in the working world as musicians and in top administrative leadership positions. But further, when they are in these roles, comparatively speaking, women are encouraged to present their ideas with an unparalleled amount of grace and diplomacy, not just so that these ideas are heard, but simply in order to thrive in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer of grace and diplomacy, and these are tools I’ve deliberately worked at developing and will continue to as long as I live. But I’m also a big believer in efficiency. It is true for any person – male or female — that the most effective way to deliver a message is not always the most efficient. In sum, the same message or idea coming from a male leader may be received one way, but a female leader delivering the same message in the same manner often is not responded to as favorably.

What in your profession has given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again?

As stated previously, providing opportunities for artists to present their art and for audiences to witness it gives me the most satisfaction. What would I have done differently? I would have learned earlier in my career that knowing the right solution is not the most important factor, ever. Building consensus is.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? 

The multitude of opportunities there are to experience it! That and the very supportive, collaborative nature the arts organizations have as a whole.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community?

As I said, I love the fact that every day my job – in the macro sense – is to create opportunities for artists. Whether it is stabilizing revenue sources, redesigning a staff structure, or writing a strategic plan: all of these contribute to the ultimate goal above.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

Voices of Note’s upcoming work is the first ever joint concert between its two choruses, the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus and the Atlanta Women’s Chorus. And Justice For All runs March 18-19th.

www.voicesofnote.org

 

catherine 3

 

Your Bio?

Catherine Pfitzer, Executive Director, joined the Voices
of Note family in early 2014. Catherine’s passion for musical
performance began at a young age and grew through training
at the Orange County School of Arts. She served as the Executive
Director of the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, founding
many of the organization’s affiliated programs, including the
Birmingham SHOUT LGBT+Film Festival (co-founder). She moved
to Atlanta in 2009 to work with 7 Stages Theatre as its Director
of Development.