Athena Project hosts Artist’s Sound Off to create a space for women artists to speak about their experiences in the local artistic communities. There will be a wide range of disciplines covered every two weeks like playwriting/spoken word, photography, theatrical arts, comedy, music, dance, and more. This space will give the Denver artistic community the much-needed space to name the struggles and triumphs of being a woman artist.
Meet our facilitators: Rohini Gupta and Courtney Cauthon. Rohini is a new board member at Athena Project and a clinical psychologist. Gupta says she is “someone who is very interested in the arts and women’s issues.”
Courtney Cauthon has been involved with Athena Project for about 6 years. She uses her performance background to help coach professionals build communication skills. She has a PhD in theatre focused on performance of gender, and has taught women and gender studies at the university level.
Gupta and Cauthon shared an overview of what to expect in the next few months for Artists Sound Off.
Q: If you could sum up Artist’s Sound Off in a sentence how would you?
G: A place to connect, support, and build community.
C: A brave space for women artists to come together to share experiences and collaborate for the future.
Q: What does Artist’s Sound Off mean to you?
C: The arts in very specific ways have been hurt, and I think a space for women, in particular, to talk about the impact of the pandemic, broader issues that they face, and challenges they face in the creation of their art is super important. I’m excited to help hold the space for those conversations to happen.
G: With my lens, I am really looking at well-being. I’m thinking about the importance of connection and well-being and being able to come together and name the struggles and challenges, while also drawing upon the strength and resilience of each other in that community. So, naming the issues, really making them visible and illuminating those as a way to decrease isolation, and come together, problem solve and provide support. Those spaces are so needed, particularly with COVID, and the disconnect that people have been facing in particular women with the challenges that women are facing.
Q: What are Zoom discussions like and any tips/tricks you have?
G: The intimacy of the group, the nature of it being small, I think is really important in terms of building that sense of safety, and people can feel brave to speak up. So, I think a lot of it is about welcoming people, welcoming their experiences, normalizing the shared experience, and welcoming the places where there might be differences based on people’s various identities. Really setting the tone for that.
Q: What to expect?
C: As a facilitator, I would hope to pose some questions and some ideas that give space for people to share. Depending on the size of the group, we might be able to put people into smaller breakout groups, and then come back and share. I think people should feel like they can come to share their experience, in a place that is welcoming and inviting. I want to facilitate a conversation about the successes and challenges, and ways we continue to thrive.
Q: What are these discussions leading to?
C: These discussions will help to build community. They will potentially be a place where you can meet people who share your experience and are open to walking with you in those experiences even if they haven’t had those experiences specifically. People who are there want to listen and perhaps even create art with you. And maybe, by voicing the challenges, we can figure out ways to overcome some of these challenges that these women artists are facing.
G: The potential for coalition building and collaboration to decrease that isolation, and spur creativity, and how to address some of these challenges using that creativity. Athena Project wants to summarize what are some of the things that come out of this in terms of the challenges and the ways people are thriving, as a way to get a snapshot of “what does the current climate look like for women artists right now.” I think holding these listening sessions really allows that to be illuminated and unfold in a real way. Learning from each other, like what is maybe working for me could help someone else, and sharing knowledge and resources with each other as a way to uplift all women. Using that and the collective strength that we hope to nurture in these spaces.
Q: What is the role of male-identifying people in this space?
G: Well, I would say women’s issues are everyone’s issues. When we think about a lot of social issues, it really takes a community, so my hope is that however you identify is that you’re listening and figuring out how to be a part of the solution.
Q: What are you excited for?
G: Being around some really strong women and hearing their stories, and being able to hold space for that. There is so much power in naming and coming together and building community.
C: I’m excited to hear from all the different artistic disciplines. I think it will be really cool to see the threads that go through, and how we can help to bring those conversations together.
Everywhere, male-dominated spaces persist creating unequal, and often unsafe environments for women. We still see the dangerous effects of gender power structures in our own communities. Creating spaces for stories like a local muralist, who was assaulted in the fall of 2020, will hopefully prevent future abuses. By having candid conversations where women artist’s can name their experiences, we are helping to pave a standard of equality and respect.