by MIKE CHAIKEN
Ten years have passed since Jennifer Hill launched the first SWAN Day.
And what started out as an arts festival designed to not only pay tribute to film and music but include other art forms created by women has continued as a tradition that tears away the spotlight from male artists and puts the focus on creative women.
This year’s SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day is March 25 in New Britain.
In press materials, SWAN Day explained, “While searching for grants for both her music and her students, (musician) Jennifer Hill found a non- profit organization called Women Arts…Just as Hill was exploring ideas to produce a show, Women Arts wanted to start a holiday to celebrate women in the arts…. ‘I wrote to (the organization and said) I love what you’re are doing. Would it still be a SWAN event if we featured bands, burlesque, and art. And (they) said ‘Yes! we’ve never thought of doing that.we are just starting out.’ So Hill ran with her idea and started producing a SWAN DAY for Connecticut and called it SWAN DAY CT. The first one was in 2008.”
Artist Kerry Kennedy, who paints a canvas live, was one of the first performers in SWAN Day when it was started 10 years ago and she hasn’t missed one first.
“SWAN Day was the catalyst for my first live painting, which has become a signature of my portfolio and had expanded the breadth of my work over the years,” said Kerry.
As one of the first creatives to sign on with SWAN Day, Kerry said she was attracted to an event that celebrated women because, “Gender bias is a reality in the visual arts world as much as it is in any profession. As a freelancer, it has worked in my favor that I have a gender-neutral name. My advisor in art school only used her initials to sign artwork for the same reason.”
“Female artists are often pigeon-holed into certain styles of work,” said Kerry. “Art museums feature more paintings of naked women than they do paintings BY women,” said Kerry.
“I was hungry for a dedicated event showcasing the diversity of styles and broad range of talents that artistic women possess,” said Kerry.
Singer Gracie Day of Bristol came across SWAN Day more recently.
“I was thrilled when I found out about SWAN Day because the music scene is mostly full of men, so it’s exciting to be a part of an event led by females,” said Gracie. “Last year was my first time in SWAN Day and the most valuable thing I personally took away from it, was making connections with other female artists. There was a camaraderie and support system all about raising each other up.”
“As a women in the music industry, I unfortunately experience sexual harassment,” said Gracie. “And because it’s not a regulated industry—especially for independent musicians— there is no (human resources department) to report to or anything.”
“SWAN Day (which is an international movement as well as local) is particularly significant for women in developing countries, whose talent and crafts have been historically undervalued and unappreciated,” said Kerry. “Giving these women a platform to celebrate their skills can enable them to establish income from their work in a way previously not explored.”
“Here in Connecticut, SWAN Day enables all the women at the venue to support each other for one night without worrying about how they will ensure their work gets noticed in an industry that still favors men,” said Kerry.
“SWAN Day is needed especially in this current political climate where women’s rights seem to be threatened,” said Gracie. “I think in this third-wave feminist movement, especially in the creative arts, there has been a focus on eliminating competition amongst one another. SWAN Day has that spirit.”
“We are sisters who have suffered in the same ways and who have soared in the same way,” said Gracie. “We are there for each other.”
Have things gotten better for women since the first SWAN Day?
Gracie replied, “I think once these questions stop being asked it will be indicative of equality.”
Beyond events like SWAN Day, to make things better, Kerry said, “It will take successful artists of all sexes and genders holding each other up and lending their influence and power to those women who need it. Artists need advocates, just as women need advocates in the corporate realm to break that glass ceiling.”
“SWAN Day is not just about women and feminism,” said Gracie, “It’s also just a chance to shine the spotlight on women in charge in the male-dominated music scene.”
The SWAN Day musical line up is Murderous Chanteuse, Tiny Ocean, Nan Roy, Parlor Walls, Elizabeth Dellinger, Nikki Mathi, Patti Rothberg, Canyon, Scarlett, That Virginia, Gracie Day,Terri Gladwell,Sarah Golley, and Jen Taylor. Hosts are Ryan Kristafer from WTNH’s “CT Style” and artist/designer Ebony Amber Parish. Dj Breakdown will fill in the musical voids and Cupcake Wars winners, Hardcore Cupcakes, will be on hand for your sweet tooth. Burlesque acts will be performed by Mistress Leona Star, Vivienne LaFlamme and Harley Foxx. Live painting onstage will be offered by Kerry Kennedy. Both stages run separately so everyone can catch all the happenings of the evening. The show is for everyone 18-plus or all ages if accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $18 resale online and $20 at the door. Tickets can be found at www.showclix.com/event/SWANDAYCT2017
The doors open at Trinity on Main, 60 Main St., New Britain at 4:30 p.m., www.trinityonmain.org