“It all started in 1985 with just one intention, to highlight and support women in the arts and we are into our 33rd year doing just that,” said Julie Haan, committee member of the East Lansing Women in the Arts Festival.
This year’s festival — held at the Edgewood United Church — includes a variety of artists, musicians, poets and a standup comedian. Singer, songwriter and activist Laura Love will take the stage and kick off the festival.
“She will go anywhere from sensitive folk songs into full punk performances. She always has a lot of energy in her shows,” Haan said.
Haan further added that Love has been touring since the ‘90s, and is a prominent fixture at women’s festivals.
“This show is so essential to honor the female, especially when they are in the forefront to resist the Trump administration — to resist the assaults on our gender occurring both globally and nationally,” Love said.
Speaking from personal tragedies and experiences of her own, she stressed the importance of these kind of festivals in linking together people to have conversations about social, gender, environmental and economic justice.
The Saturday schedule is also packed with musical performances and will feature a stand-up show from comic and activist Mimi Gonzalez.
Known for her signature style and socially conscious commentary, Gonzalez has long been an advocate of the LGBTQ community, long before it was acceptable to do so. Armed with a M.F.A in creative writing, she is also conducting her own writing workshop this year.
“My comedy is expanding to include some of my poetry and literary expressions along with the comedy,” Gonzalez said. “In the style of ‘Write Here, Write Now’ by Toni Amato based in Boston, where writing workshops were offered in the way of community service, which really feels like a beautiful act of compassion.”
Taking inspiration from the rich literary community in Oakland, California, where she went to grad school, she brings that energy forward in the workshop by speaking about old-school feminism, ultimately making it a consciousness raising group.
“It’s really important that we speak up,” Gonzalez said.
Along with Gonzalez and Love, the festival includes a series of interesting workshops such as drumming sessions with Pele Yemaya, a ukulele class by Jennifer Rangel and the presentation “Listening to Our Bodies,” by Rev. Mary Lopez.
“The community really does get involved with our festival, supporting us in every way,” Haan said.
Support is noted by the presence of a large artists’ market at Women in the Arts. In store are artists and craftswomen offering items ranging from pottery, fiber art, homemade food, paintings, jewelry, massages and other personal care products.
“At first, we started with just a day stage, for people who haven’t really performed and want to get their music out,” Haan said. “Essentially, performers who are not necessarily famous but working to build an audience. That aspect of the festival is still retained but now we have the opportunity to give back to the community.”
Women in the Arts
Festival Friday, Nov. 9, 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m. Edgewood United Church 469 N. Hagadorn East Lansing For a full schedule and tickets visit: www.witafestival.com