In less than three months, Ladyfest Atlanta will once again take over a handful of venues throughout the city. From May 16 until May 21, the festival will feature the work of women and gender nonconforming artists of all disciplines from the greater Atlanta area.
What is it though?
We like to describe it as an intentional, queer, feminist space for women and gender nonconforming people (GNC). This space is a political one. Our goal is to precipitate critical and needed dialogue around the intersections of sexism, racism, and classism in the arts communities of Atlanta. We acknowledge that creating, recognizing, and curating art is an inherently political process. From what is considered art to who determines which art is celebrated, Ladyfest Atlanta hopes to challenge whose voices are amplified in this city’s cultural institutions.
Ladyfest Atlanta stems from a larger tradition. The first Ladyfest took place in Olympia, Washington, in 2000. At the end of the festival, the organizers made a call to the attendees that they should organize Ladyfest in their own cities, addressing the fact that each locale has its own specific needs. Since that five-day festival attended by over 2,000 people, there have been Ladyfests all over the world, from New Orleans to New Zealand. In Atlanta, Ladyfest South celebrated women and gender nonconforming artists from across the Southeast in 2002, 2004, and 2007. The first Ladyfest Atlanta was held in 2015 and all proceeds went to Solutions not Punishment Coalition. In a departure from the earlier Ladyfest South, Ladyfest Atlanta focuses on artists from Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, with the hopes of narrowing down to the issues that affect us more directly and creating a stronger local community among women and GNC artists.
So… why start Ladyfest Atlanta?
We reject the notion that this festival is politicized just because the lineup includes only women and GNC artists, while the same venues hosting three shows featuring exclusively white men is not considered a political act. Art does not exist in a vacuum. We must acknowledge the political and historical contexts that shape our art and music spaces, as well as the people who curate them. It is absolutely the responsibility of each person/organization booking a show, gallery event, film screening, comedy show, etc., to seek out more contributions from women and artists of color. We started Ladyfest Atlanta because we (as non-male artists/creators in this city) needed it, not because we felt like we needed to prove to Atlanta’s curators that women, trans, and GNC folks can do stuff (and do it well!). Our real goal is for Ladyfest not to happen again because we hopefully, one day, won’t need it. Let this be a call to Atlanta’s bookers and art cookers to pay more attention*. As the Guerrilla Girls famously said, “you’re seeing less than half the picture without the vision of women artists!” and artists of color.”
Looking to the future, Ladyfest Atlanta hopes to facilitate lasting relationships between artists, venues, and the public. We want this community to exist outside of the yearly festival. We want to see attendees continue to support artists and for artists to collaborate with each other throughout the year. We want to shift cultural institutions in Atlanta resulting in more opportunities for women and gender nonconforming people in all aspects of the arts, including work behind the scenes.
*PS: This doesn’t mean adding one or two “female-only” group shows.
What can I expect this year?
In Ladyfest Atlanta’s inaugural year, we had a jam-packed schedule consisting of three days of performances, workshops, and talks. This year, Ladyfest Atlanta will be spread over six days, with a percentage of our programming addressing public health. The emphasis on public health points at the intersections between environmental justice and reproductive justice, as well a direct focus on efforts to decriminalize HIV and AIDs. Not only are we encouraging artists to explore these issues, we are also reaching out to local organizations in order to increase awareness of their work and connect attendees with the people doing activism in the community. Connecting Atlanta’s arts (both institutional and DIY) and Atlanta activism (grassroots and official nonprofits) is crucial in order to shift the cultural landscape to make space for radical change. Come out this year ready to get into the nitty-gritty at the panel discussions and experience performance art, music, visual art, film, and comedy. Our lineup and venue announcements will be posted in April so be sure to check out our website and facebook for details.
But May is so far away, what can I do now?
Ladyfest Atlanta is completely grassroots and community funded. If you have the means to do so, please donate to us through our paypal. We also have some upcoming fundraisers:
March 3, 8pm: Kayla Steen, Yancey, Dux+Didi Xio, Really Sorry @ 529
March 25, 8pm: film screening @ Eyedrum (more details to come!)
April 22, 8pm: film screening @ Eyedrum (more details to come!)
If you’re interested in helping out with Ladyfest Atlanta this year, join our Facebook group: Ladyfest Atlanta Organizers or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Right now, we are about to begin reviewing submissions and build our programming. We always need people of all experiences committed to helping make decisions. During the festival, volunteers are needed to perform a wide range of tasks, including greeting attendees, assisting with setup, and helping to facilitate programs.
Ladyfest Atlanta, like the community at large, is a constantly evolving platform. We are always open to critique, suggestion, love, and pretty much whatever you want to share with us. Feel free to reach out to us and let us know what you’d like to see more (or less) of at the festival or if you’d like to get involved as an organizer. The more the merrier! ;)
Co-authored by Chelsea Dunn and Toni Haraldsen
Chelsea is a mad scientist by day experimenting on little flies at Emory, and an experimental cellist by night. She has a pet snake named Snakey.