An estimated 3 million citizens participated in the Women’s Marchæon January 21, and the higher-than-expected numbers included four Pinellas County-based artists æand writers who voiced their disapproval of the new Presidential administration and its proposed legislative changes.
Locally, artist/Dunedin Fine Art Center Curator Catherine Bergmann hoofed it alongside some 20,000 Tampa Bay residents in St. Petersburgäó»s sister march, which sprawledæalong the Cityäó»s downtown bayfront.
Some traveled in groups and reunited with sisters along the way to make the trip äóî both biological and otherwise. Others found a new tribe on arrival.
The Pinellas creativesæsaid they were impressed with the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie they experienced äóî even amid the frenzied hustle of an event that mushroomed in size well beyond initial expectations.
In the thick of the D.C. march, Gordon found herself pleasantly surprised and impressed that the peaceful mood didnäó»t let up while marchers contended with being rerouted, visual obstructions and other challenges. Nothing dampened the mood.
Warming stations throughout D.C. allowed demonstrators to warm-up and recharge. Gordon, Boucher and their posse visited Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, where they were welcomed with complimentary snacks and bottles of water. One woman in Gordonäó»s group didnäó»t pack the right winter clothing for the event and was offered a coat from the churchäó»s lost and found.
äóìIt wasnäó»t seamless yet it was perfectly seamless,äó Gordon said. äóìPeople were rolling with the changes. They made space for each other. There was an attitude of calm and peaceful sisterhood and just being present.äó
Art was indeed ever-present at the protests, whether in the form of ingenious, comical and urgently worded posters äóî Waddelläó»s group gathered last-minute supplies and created a poster that read äóìThink Outside my Boxäó äóî or through costumes, giant paper-mache figures or music from performers like Madonna or Alicia Keys or the iconic posters of Shepard Fairey.
äóìFor me, the experience read entirely as a creative act äóî individually and collectively,äó wrote Bergmann in an email to Creative Pinellas. äóìBetween the personal manifestos presented (signs), the get-ups (chosen garb), and get-downs (shared chants), our humanity took the spotlight and it was powerfully affirmed. The creative energy generated that day around the world was exponential and continues to sustain.äó
The most unlikely arts movement encompassed the efforts of daughters, moms and grandmothers all ages across the country äóî the wool pussycat hats, which went from hand-knitted craft to a world-known icon. Aerial photos of the D.C. march are awash in the pink blur of the thousands wearing the feline-inspired winter hats.
äóìI can’t emphasize enough how important a common symbol äóî a pussy cat äóî was to the movement,äó said Waddell. The author of Fringe Florida has witnessed all manner of outrageous behavior by groups and noticed æthe power of the pinkæhat.
äóìWhen I walked around wearing my pussyhat, people literally pulled over in their car to tell me they liked and supported the cause,äó she shared. äóìMany others shouted they would see me the next day. It was so empowering and uplifting to know that many other Americans also feel as I do.äó
Without the push of a major advertising or marketing agency, the pink hat entered our cultural vocabulary in a relatively short amount of time.
The juncture of creative breakthrough and experimentation by seasoned creatives and untrained artists alike has fascinated Boucher, whose entire mission, with her NOMAD Art Bus, involves bringing out the inner master in all children and adults, not just the gifted or educated.
äóìWhen people come together for a common cause, they often let go of their inhibitions about art,äó she said. The academically trained artist and instructor thought she had seen it all but claimed to be amazed at the level of creativity that went into the protestäó»s signs and iconography.
äóìI saw so many creative signs,äó Waddell said. äóìThey captured everything from the bromance of Putin and Trump to the the simple lines, which I think work better, likeæäóÖMake America Think Again,äó» äóÖSave America’s Public Schoolsäó» æand even a mere cardboard cutout of a kitty cat head.äó
äóìItäó»s super easy to get kids to make art,äó Boucher added, äóìbut at some point, people start to think they are not an artist and not good at it and not allowed to do it. äó_ For many, making art to express something and the process of creating motivated people to go out and buy art supplies and make something for the first time in a long time. I love it when art allows empowerment.äó
Gordon and Boucher, friends and frequent collaborators, both say they feel energized to participate in activities that further the initiatives of the Womenäó»s March. They discussed organizing postcard parties æletter-writing sessions with arts supplies and blank postcards provided with information about issues, names and addresses æof U.S. senators, representatives, the White House and other legislative bodies.
äóìI think that any arts organization can get support by bringing people together,äó Gordon said, adding that there has been discussion of book clubs focused on works about politics and activism, äóìSnacks and Actäó events and an increased availability of books from the Little Free Library network related to timely subjects.
Nonprofits across the nation are offering tips for arts communities. Boucher commended the efforts of Deborah Fisher, a professor at Valparaiso University, who is working to expand the roles art and artists play within communities through her non-profit organization A Blade of Grass.
Even with the threat of cuts in federal funding to the arts looming äóî particularly to the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities — Gordon is confident in our ability to overcome obstacles and energize the arts scene around causes and events of social consciousness. æEven the larger, more prestigious institutions with wealthy donors äóî many of a more conservative mind set äóî could stand to benefit from community organizing, she said.
äóìThey could mobilize their constituencies to retain federal funding for the arts,äó Gordon added. äóìImagine if a voice as powerful as the Dalí_, which has an impact on the arts locally and nationally spoke out. It may take an act of bravery on their part, but it will be worth it.äó
Some related events and information …
Lynn Waddell has a short story featured on the web blog donaldtrumptales.com. She will also read her work at Story Brothel at 7 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 15, at æCigar City Cider & Mead, 1812 N. 15th St., Tampa, and Alternative Facts: A Memoir Writing Game, Friday, Feb 24, at 7 p.m at Sawgrass Teahouse & Performance Venue, 2436 Emerson Ave. S., St. Petersburg.
Catherine Bergmann curated works in Dunedin Fine Art Centeräó»s current exhibitions, which celebrate interconnectedness and our renewed relationship with Cuba. One show reveals the island through the lens of four photographers, another displays works by contemporary Cuban artists, and an all-media juried exhibition titled We Are Familyäó takes up the fourth gallery. Visit dfac.org for details.
Carrie Boucher and her NOMAD Art Bus and Mitzi Gordon and her Bluebird Book Bus will be at Localtopia in Williams Park on Sat., Feb. 4, a few feet away from the the Bloom Collective, which will be presenting a unique 3-D installation. Visit nomadartbus.org or thebluebirdbus.com/bluebirdbooks for more info.
Boucher and artist John Gascot will be leading a five-week youth LGBT self-portraiture project at Gascotäó»s studio in the Pinellas Park Arts Village, 5663 Park Blvd., Studio 4, Pinellas Park. The project comprises four weeks of creating and will culminate in a gallery show at the Pinellas Arts Village at the COVE gallery. Gascot will lead the workshop, partner and a co-lead with NOMAD. Classes will take place March and April with the exhibit opening on April 22 for Pinellas Park art walk. Gascot and Boucher are currently looking for 10 LGBTQ youth to participate. Email email@example.com or click here for further details.