March 20, 2008

SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day Launches on March 29, 2008

It's not news to anyone who reads this site that it's a tough climate for women artists. A new international holiday, SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now) has been launched by the Fund for Women Artists. The first one will take place on Saturday, March 29th. It's not too late to participate and show your support for all types of women artists!

Martha Richards, Executive Director of the Fund for Women Artists, answered some questions about SWAN Day. More info: SWAN Day

Women & Hollywood: What is SWAN Day & why is it needed?

Martha Richards: SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now Day) is a new international holiday that celebrates women artists that will take place on the last Saturday of Women’s History Month (March). As a symbol of international solidarity, there will be parties, performances, exhibits and other events featuring women artists all over the world. The public will be encouraged to attend these events and to make donations to their favorite women artists. There are currently almost 140 events across the U.S. and in 8 other countries. They range from a festival of women-fronted rock bands in New London, Connecticut to a performance of "Tales from the Far Side of Fifty" by women aged 56 - 84 in Oceanside, California. All-day festivals are being planned in Washington, D.C.; Cranston, Rhode Island; San Diego, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

By focusing attention on the work of women artists, SWAN Day will help people imagine what the world might be like if women’s art and perspectives were fully integrated into all of our lives.

Also, SWAN Day is designed to empower women artists to do more fundraising for their projects. Since government and foundation funding for the arts has decreased over the past decade, women artists need to approach more individual donors, but many artists are shy about doing that. By validating the contributions of women artists, SWAN Day helps them feel more confident about asking for money. They are proud to tell prospective donors that they are part of an international celebration.
W&H: How can people get involved in their community?
MR: The easiest way to participate is to attend a SWAN Day event. People can use the official SWAN Day Map to search for events in their area. Many people are celebrating SWAN Day by having private parties where they get together with friends to watch a movie that is written or directed by women or to talk about their favorite women artists.

If there are no events in their area, they can organize one of their own – the event can be a party, performance, exhibit, or any other activity that celebrates women artists. People are welcome to post their events on the SWAN Map by filling in a form Sign Up
W&H: If you can’t organize an event, how can you participate?
MR: Another way to participate is simply to send a check to your favorite woman artist. You can find someone to support through the WomenArts Network, an online directory of over 1,000 women artists Women Artists Network, or you can choose to support any other woman artist that you know. Almost every woman artist has projects that she cannot do because of lack of funds, and any woman artist that you support will probably use the funds wisely. You can also make a donation to The Fund for Women Artists to help support future SWAN Days by clicking on any Donate Now button SWAN Day

Many people are celebrating SWAN Day by wearing t-shirts, jewelry or other items with swans on them. You can order t-shirts, hats and mugs with the SWAN Day logo Buy SWAN Day materials or you can download the SWAN Logo from the Publicity Tools section of SWAN Day and put it on items of your own.

Think also about writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or create an op-ed piece about the status of women artists. In San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, New York, Boston and Washington, DC, women have asked their Mayors to issue a SWAN Day proclamation, and we are optimistic that each Mayor will respond. If you want to contact your Mayor, The Fund for Women Artists has posted sample proclamations.
W&H: Why is it important to support women artists?
MR: It is important to support all artists these days – men as well as women. We are living in such war-torn times and we need better tools for understanding each other. The arts provide some of the best ways for people to learn about each other and to become more tolerant of differences. If we invest more money in the arts, we will have a better chance of creating a more tolerant and peaceful society.

It is important to focus on supporting women artists because in the past women have been ignored and severely underfunded. We have been deprived of the creativity of half the population because women have not received the funds they need. We have missed out on the inspiration, empowerment, and healing that their art might have provided. Women artists should be funded because it is the fair thing to do and because we need to see beautiful and moving works of art that reflect women’s perspectives.

There is a myth in this country that when there is no arts funding, great art will still be made by “starving artists”. Actually women artists are much more likely to be serving as your waitress than “starving.” When there is no arts funding, women artists are often forced to take menial jobs that take up most of the time that they should be devoting to their art. As a society, we are wasting a major asset when we force these talented women to do jobs that squander their talents instead of developing them.
W&H: What would you like to see come out of SWAN Day?
MR: SWAN Day is inspired in part by Eve Ensler’s V-Day celebrations which raise over $4 million a year for programs responding to violence against women. In the same way that organizers of V-Day events donate a portion of their proceeds to local women’s shelters, SWAN Day organizers are encouraged to use their events as benefits for their own work or as fundraisers for other women artists in their communities.

Ensler started with only one benefit performance, but after 8 years, there were 2,500 V-Day events all over the world. Our long term goal for SWAN Day is simply to help our constituents to raise as much money as possible for their work and the work of other women artists. Eight years from now, we will be thrilled if we are raising $4 million a year that is distributed to women artists through a global network of individual artists and women-led arts organizations.