Friday, June 11, 2010

San Francisco's WomenROCK Collective Celebrates Four Years of Empowering Female Artists in the Music Industry

San Francisco, CA, June 16, 2010

On Wednesday, June 16th, 2010, San Franciscans will pack The Independent to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the WomenROCK Collective, a group that has contributed to making the city by the bay a great place for women musicians and their fans.

Founded in San Francisco in 2006, the collective strives to empower female artists in the music industry at the local, national, and international level while raising awareness and money for important causes.

Women make up less than ten percent of the music industry and less than six percent in executive, producer or engineer roles. Women who do achieve commercial success are often over-sexualized and objectified, leaving women who don’t fit the mold out in the cold. WomenROCK was created in response to this situation by a group of talented and motivated women musicians, producers, and promoters (including *bernadette*, Valerie Orth, Lisa Sniderman, Sylvia Roberts, Kristin Hathaway, Zarah Gamaldi, Jessie Woletz, Melissa Rapp, Nomi Adiv, Nkechi Live, Vanessa Verlee, Eva Jo Meyers, Marianne Barlow, Abigail Picache and others) who decided to work together to raise visibility and opportunity for themselves and the other women artists in their community.

“We are organizing ourselves to work together to showcase our creative endeavors, talents, intellect, business savvy and penchant for community-building and activism,” says the celebration’s organizer and WomenROCK visionary *bernadette*, who is also one of the artists being showcased at The Independent.

Since its inception, WomenROCK has presented monthly showcase performances and special one-off shows in San Francisco, and has raised money for Bay Area and national organizations, including IMPACT Bay Area, Breast Cancer Action, Blue Bear School of Music, Women’s Community Clinic, and more.

Wednesday’s performers will include:

Stripmall Architecture (

As members of San Francisco’s celebrated Halou, Ryan and Rebecca Coseboom built up a remarkable body of material and worked with a wide range of iconoclastic artists including DJ Shadow (on his infamous Radiohead remix), Low, Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie, and the Velvet Underground’s John Cale. When Halou came to an end after a US tour with indie legend Bob Mould, they regrouped quickly and launched their new project, Stripmall Architecture with guitarist Tim Hingston and drummer Patrick Harte. Now, in 2010, Stripmall Architecture have released their second album, Feathersongs for Factory Girls, entirely funded by their dedicated fanbase across the US and the globe.

Conspiracy of Venus (

Conspiracy of Venus is a groundbreaking women's community activist a cappella choir based in San Francisco. Under the artistic direction of Joyce Todd McBride, the ensemble’s 40 singers perform McBride's daring and inventive arrangements of songs ranging from the classic (Joni Mitchell's “Big Yellow Taxi”) to the cutting-edge (Bjork's “Possibly Maybe”). Their repertoire also includes works by Bill Withers, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Roger Miller. Conspiracy of Venus has performed to sold-out crowds in venues around the Bay area ranging from The Palace of Fine Arts to the Dublin Women’s Prison.


Israeli-born, Ziva grew up on a small kibbutz, where she began her musical journey playing the cello, saxophone, and singing in the local choir. Becoming increasingly drawn to jazz and R&B music of the United States, she soon found herself as lead singer in a funk band, becoming a local sensation. After serving in the military and attending the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, she relocated to sunny California where her American dreaming is becoming a thriving phenomenon not only in her musical performance but also her organizational skills with WomenROCK and her new endeavor as producer and promoter of the newly formed Bay Vibes.

*bernadette* (

*bernadette* is taking the stage by storm with her vibrant musical presence and unique vocal sound. She writes heartfelt, sultry songs that encapsulate the essence of San Francisco's timeless sound with a 60's sensibility and authentic purity. Hailing from San Francisco, *bernadette* has played the Grand Rooms of San Francisco - The Fillmore, Great American Music Hall, The Independent, Slim's, Bottom of the Hill, Café Du Nord and festivals around the Bay, playing across the United States as well as touring Europe. Backed by co-conspirator Garrin Benfield on guitar, the two harmonize and play together akin to Gillian Welch & David Rawlings in a brutally honest, soul-baring live performance. *bernadette* is the visionary and one of the co-founders of WomenROCK as well as running the thriving Box Factory art, community and culture space and a co-producer of one of the largest festivals in San Francisco, Power to the Peaceful.

The celebration will also include a burlesque performance by the Cheese Puffs, spoken word by Scorpio Blues, SHEketch comedy from PianoFight’s Monday Night ForePlays, and a dance party with DJ Kipp Glass.

ASL Interpretation of each performance will be provided, and the show will be broadcast live at:

If you live in the Bay Area, come support the power and potential created by women artists who work hard – and play hard – together.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 at 7:30PM

WHERE: THE INDEPENDENT 628 Divisidero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. , (415) 771-1421

The Independent is a 21+ venue and is wheelchair accessible.

TICKETS: $12 Advance/$14 at the door.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WPA Artist Mary Perry Stone Honored for SWAN Day

Dayton, OH -
On Friday, February 5, 2010, 70 people, including Dayton’s mayor, braved a snowstorm to attend the opening reception of “Art Makes Us Human,” an exhibit of work by Mary Perry Stone (1909-2007), a WPA artist who focused on social justice and civil rights. The exhibit inaugurates “The Mary Perry Stone Women’s Art Gallery” at the Missing Peace Art Space, which will house a permanent collection of works by Stone and showcase work by women artists from around the world whose art is dedicated to peace. The gallery will hold a SWAN Day event the weekend of March 5-7, 2010 in conjunction with the exhibit.

Mary Perry Stone was one of 40 women employed by the New York City Federal Arts Project as part of the WPA during the 1930’s as a sculptor and teacher. It was during this period that her work became focused on social protest, her lifelong subject. After working in the shipyards during World War II, Stone moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she continued to sculpt and paint. Much of her work during the 1960’s opposed the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. She moved to Ashland, Oregon, in the 1990’s, where she continued to sculpt, paint, and exhibit her work until her death in 2007. Stone’s art was shown in numerous group and solo exhibits at museums and galleries in New York, California, and Oregon, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, and Rockefeller Center.

Over the course of her career, Stone made over 50 social-protest canvas murals on subjects ranging from the struggle for civil rights to the exploitation of labor. Her work “was all grounded in her belief that an artist… has a responsibility to work for a more humane world,” said Ramie Streng, Stone’s daughter. According to Streng, her mother’s lifelong commitment to social justice was largely influenced by the Great Depression and her involvement in the WPA. Wanting to remain true to the anti-commercial, progressive spirit of her mother’s work, Streng created a website where visitors can view Stone’s social protest murals for free. With a new gallery home at the Missing Peace Art Space, Stone’s colorful, dynamic, deeply humanistic art will continue to inspire generations to come.

WomenArts is delighted to celebrate the life and work of Mary Perry Stone as part of our WPA 75th anniversary retrospective for SWAN Day 2010. Special thanks to Ramie Streng for getting in touch with us about her mother’s work, and to Steve Fryburg and Gabriella Pickett of the Missing Peace Art Space for planning the SWAN Day event in Dayton.

If you’re in or near Dayton, be sure to visit The Mary Perry Stone Women’s Art Gallery at the Missing Peace Art Space, 234 S. Dutoit St., Dayton, OH 45402-2215, T: (937) 241-4353. Read more about the exhibit and see a video at:

Visit to learn more about the life and work of Mary Perry Stone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recognizing Artists as Workers

It is always exciting at this time of year to hear from people who are organizing SWAN Day events for next month. As the calls and emails come in, I am often struck by how hard most women artists work. We put in long hours for under-staffed non-profits or juggle several part-time jobs along with childcare duties. In spite of this, the general public seldom considers artists as "workers," and we tend to be overlooked in conversations about the economy.

In his recent State of the Union speech, President Obama said that two million Americans had been hired as a result of his economic stimulus programs. He spoke proudly about hiring construction and clean energy workers, teachers, cops, firefighters, first responders, and correctional officers. He did not mention artists.

Thanks to Americans for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts did receive $50 million of stimulus funds last year for arts jobs in spite of strong Republican opposition - but that's only enough for a maximum of 2,000 jobs at $25,000 each, and it is a miniscule percentage of the total Recovery Act package of $787 billion.

To put this in perspective - the California Department of Corrections received $1 billion in federal stimulus funds, i.e. Congress allocated 20 times as much money for prison officers in California as they did for all of the artists in the country. Do the guards really contribute that much more to our economic potential?

During the Great Depression of the 1930's the U.S. government paid more attention to the needs of artists. In 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched an economic stimulus program called the Works Progress Administration (WPA) with a goal of giving people "self-respect and self-reliance" by giving them meaningful jobs.

The WPA provided jobs to approximately 40,000 artists at its peak, including many of the best artists of the period, such as Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Louise Nevelson, Langston Hughes, Orson Welles, and Arthur Miller.

Zora Neale Hurston's WPA Legacy

Zora Neale Hurston worked on the WPA Folklore project, recording folk songs and stories in the black communities of Florida and preserving oral traditions that might otherwise have been lost. The recordings are now available online in the Florida Memory State Library and Archives. (See

It is amazing to hear one of the finest writers of the Harlem Renaissance singing these songs as part of her government job during the depths of the Great Depression. Alice Walker once wrote that Hurston's great gift was to show her people "relishing the pleasure of each other's loquacious and bodacious company."

In the link below, you can hear Hurston describe and sing the song Halimuhfack. Even though it is a scratchy 75-year-old recording, you can still hear that pleasure and her loving attention to the details of cultural expression in her community.

Organizing in Your Community

As President Obama calls for $30 billion more for jobs stimulus programs, what can we do to make sure that Congress puts artists to work again as part of our country's recovery?

Many of you are already taking the first step by organizing SWAN Day events in your community that raise the visibility of women artists and stimulate discussion about the value of the arts.

If you would like to do more on this issue as part of your SWAN Day event or later in the year, WomenArts has compiled resource materials about the WPA and suggested activities. (See

The members of NewShoe, a group of playwrights and theatre directors in New York, have created a play about the women of the WPA for their SWAN Day event, and they have agreed to share it with others for free public readings. (See ) We encourage you to create and share works that express your views on the role of artists in the recovery.

Also, check out Art & the Public Purpose: A New Framework at A group of 60 arts activists met with White House representatives in May 2009 and then developed this excellent five-point manifesto about ways that artists could participate in our country's recovery.

Since many of you are in book groups, we wanted to recommend two books that really bring the WPA programs to life - Susan Quinn's Furious Improvisation about the Federal Theatre Project, and David Taylor's Soul of a People about the Federal Writers' Project. For those of you in WITASWAN film-watching groups, there is a film version of Soul of a People, and another film about the period by Tim Robbins called The Cradle Will Rock.

Let's hope that seventy-five years from now, our descendants will be able to see that even though times were hard in 2010, we still wrote plays, made films, sang, danced, painted, and most of all, we enjoyed each other's "bodacious company."

If you have comments about this article, please contact us>>
We always love to hear from you.

Martha Richards, Executive Director