Alice Song / Sun Staff Photographer

Community members gather over the weekend on Cornell's campus for a symposium about feminist art.

March 19, 2019

PMA Symposium Discusses the Impact of Feminist Art and Performance

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This weekend, students, faculty and community members attended a two-day event exploring feminist art in Collegetown.

The symposium, titled ‘“Feminist Directions: Performance, Power, and Leadership” was  organized by graduate students Jayme Kilburn and Kelly Richmond, both in the performing and media arts department.

Throughout the weekend, attendees were treated to workshops, panels and a cabaret, exploring the importance and impact of feminist art. Kilburn described the event as a push “against the status quo,” reflecting on how much the event has grown.

“The original purpose was to bring feminists, specifically feminists and specifically women artists together, to talk about their work cross-disciplinarily,” Kilburn told The Sun. “[And to look at] this idea of what is a feminist artist because there’s no one answer to that.”

The symposium began with the “Human Sexuality Tour” in Cornell’s Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collection on Friday, led by curator Brenda Marston. The collection documents changes in the social construction of sexuality over time.

Visiting lecturer Prof. Rhodessa Jones, performing and media arts, followed the tour with a workshop titled “Creative Survival,” where she explored theater as a tool for change.

Raven Harris ’19 said that the workshop was a valuable experience.

“One of the biggest things that came across for me was just being free,” Harris said in an interview with The Sun. “Also just being able to work with other women and trust other women.”

The first day’s events on Friday concluded with “A Bad and Nasty Cabaret,” featuring performances by symposium guests, performers and activists alike.

Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, co-founders of the performance troupe Split-Britches, were the first performers of the night, presenting an act with a commentary on current politics.

Their act was followed by other acts including a monologue, poetry readings and musical performances.

“[The cabaret] was all very fun and very relevant to our times. Every act by itself was great and impactful and belonged in the show,” Octavio Martin ’20 told The Sun.

Saturday’s events kicked off with “Mentors, Methods, and Mutations: A Workshop on Feminist Crosspollination,” followed by a “Feminist Directions” roundtable with a discussion of participants’ directing histories and feminist methodologies.

Tisa Chang of the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre led a master workshop on directing culturally specific work. The symposium came to a close Saturday afternoon with a fire-eating display by firedancer Kate Guntermann.

Richmond described the symposium’s development as a “really great experience of feminist networks.”

“Learning how many interesting people would want to be involved in this type of event, I think, was so thrilling,” said Richmond.

Kilburn credited the success of the symposium to the support from campus and community members. “I’m very grateful for all the support that we got from the other departments,” she said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without all that support.”