Last Wednesday, several of us Honoring Women's Rights conference planners flew to support a fund raiser for the Geena Davis Institute at the William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica. I had never been to this gallery before and didn't know what to expect. They did a very cool thing and offered a VIP package for a five-person group without raising the base ticket price per person. Sweet! There were five of us who happened to be going! With the VIP package, they advertised our HWR conference logo to the rest of the attendees in several ways. This was a piece of brilliant marketing and sales on their part. We were in networking heaven with people who were busy making the planet a better place as women's rights organizers. All of us focused on bringing parity to women and men in the arts.

When asked what my conference was about, I told them it was to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of WCA and to promote honoring women's rights with a series of speakers, films and a play, complimented with a juried art exhibition. Everyone was delighted and many offered to speak or certainly to come as attendees, but one person dug in a little deeper and asked, "What's my take-away?" A bit surprised, I said we were documenting the event for archival purposes and the edited DVDs would be for sale. I added, this conference will add to the rapidly growing need for public education! She looked mildly disappointed as she smiled and exchanged cards with me.

Over the next few days, that question pushed on me. Did she mean what would happen after the conference was over? We've all been there, Ben and Elaine on the bus after the big church scene. Now what do we do? was written all over their faces. Yesterday, I had an appointment with Martha Richards, the founder of WomenArts.org and SWAN Day. I hoped she would be a HWR speaker.  I showed her all the preparations, the list of current speakers and performances. Martha is smart,  approachable and down-to-earth. In 30 minutes, she zeroed in on The Question— what happens after this conference is over?  

I need to thank whoever it was back at William Turner’s gallery who first posed this question to me or I’d have lost her right then and there.  Instead I had the opportunity to share this problem with a brilliant mind whose worked on raising women in the arts up from every angle thought of. After a few minutes, we realized if 75 people can come to a Geena Davis Institute fund raiser and hundred’s come to this conference, why not create a platform for them to reach out and support each other on a more regular basis. We can’t keep waiting for an event to pop up to combine ideas and resources. It took 40 years to change 5% to 17%. This is a success, but at a very slow pace.

Do we break down our stove-pipe organizations and develop the opposite model? Do we use the new virtual campus model with social networking tools and on-line, interactive web sites? Do we have a super organization with named divisions, such as thespian, studio, and literary with yearly conferences?

This conference is a place to explore where to go next and how to work together.

5/14/2012 07:07:36 pm

Thank you so much for this thought provoking piece. This is a great question, and I hope there are more. To me, often the best answer is the correct question. So, what will we "take away" with us that will empower us to rapidly move forward in achieving parity?

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Honoring Women's Rights: a WCA Conference. Themed issues around writers and visual artists interpretations of Women's Rights