WomenArts will sponsor a gathering of SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now Day) organizers as part of the Statera Foundation’s Third National Conference for women in theatre on Thursday, October 4 in Milwaukee. As part of the three-day conference, the historic gathering will transition SWAN Day from WomenArts to the Statera Foundation.
“This meeting is historic because it is the first time we have ever gathered the SWAN organizers,” SWAN Day co-founder and WomenArts Executive Director Martha Richards said. “I have met most of them, but they have never met each other since they live in different cities. We will have representatives from SWAN events in Kenya, Czech Republic, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco, as well as the Statera women and a couple of other invited guests.”
In April 2007, Richards was asked by film critic and FF2 Media founder Jan Lisa Huttner to speak at an American Association of University Women conference in Bloomington, IL. The beginning of SWAN Day grew out of a conversation between the two, as they discussed ways to build more direct connections between women artists and women audience members: the idea of an annual event called Support Women Artists Now (SWAN) Day.
“Without women artists, women in the audience have no one who speaks to their deep identity as women,” Huttner said. “While my partner (Martha) has brilliantly represented women artists all these years, my own goal continues to be mobilizing women audiences.”
Huttner had been working to encourage women to attend more films written and directed by women, and she had started WITASWAN (Women in the Audiences Supporting Women Artists Now). WITASWAN members made a commitment to see at least one film directed or written by a woman every month. It began as an initiative of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Women.
“I believe art is a dyadic process – a ‘handshake’ between an artist and an audience. Without audience participation, an artist gets neither emotional nor financial compensation (both of which are essential) and, even worse, she gets no feedback in the moment,” Huttner said. “Each event I have attended – either as an organizer or as a ‘mere’ participant – has been thrilling and inspiring. My eyes tear up. My heart pounds. My soul flies free.”
The leadership of SWAN Day is now transitioning from WomenArts to the Statera Foundation, an organization aiming to bring women into full and equal participation in the arts, beginning with the annual National Conference, a unique opportunity to meet with theatre professionals from all over the country.
The SWAN Gathering will be a day-long discussion that Richards will facilitate with WomenArts board member Christine Young. “Our goals are to introduce the SWAN organizers to each other and to the Statera Leadership team; to share success stories and best practices; to find out what kinds of support the organizers need, and to discuss ways to increase the impact of SWAN Day long-term.”
The first International SWAN Day was celebrated on Saturday, March 29, 2008. After its initial success, SWAN Day became an annual event to be held on the last Saturday of every March. The AAUW-Illinois Board issued a proclamation recognizing Huttner “for her creativity and for her foresight.” Since then, more than 700 international Swan events have been held in Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Romania and many more. Thousands of women artists around the world have created SWAN events over the years. Huttner has organized film events featuring prominent women film directors for SWAN Day every year – first in Chicago and then in New York. Richards oversaw all the fundraising, publicity, artist liaisons and website maintenance for SWAN Day for 11 years from its inception in 2007 through SWAN Day 2018.
SWAN Day events have been celebrated in collaboration with the League of Professional Theatre Women, New York Women in Film and Television and the Coalition of Women in the Arts and Media and have been endorsed by women filmmakers like Sandra Oh, Isabel Allende and Famke Janssen.
“I have had a lot of favorite SWAN moments, but one that really stands out for me was attending SWAN Day Connecticut in April 2018 and seeing a performance by Jennifer Hill’s 17-year-old singer-songwriter daughter, Scarlett," Richards recalls. "This extremely talented and poised young woman has been to a SWAN event every year from first grade through high school graduation! Scarlett has grown up with the attitude that women artists are important enough to be celebrated, and the holiday that Jan and I struggled so hard to create is part of her normal landscape. It really made me see how attitudes can shift in one or two generations, and it filled me with hope for the future. We just need to keep going – and make sure we include our children!"
For more information about SWAN Day visit: http://www.staterafoundation.org/swan-day/.
For more information on the STATERA Foundation, visit: http://www.staterafoundation.org.
© Nikoleta Morales (10/02/18) FF2 Media
Photo credit: FF2 Media
Video credit: Statera Foundation