A Fest for Women’s History Month

AlivenArts produces March events featuring poetry, instrumental and vocal music, visual art and films created and/or performed by women

click to enlarge Rachel Kramer founded the festival. - PHOTO: Provided
PHOTO: Provided
Rachel Kramer founded the festival.

With March being National Women’s History Month, local AlivenArts is producing a new festival devoted to women whose talents enliven the local and regional arts scene. The organization has the goal of engaging the community via arts education, performances and experiences.

Last year, its founder Rachel Kramer attended LUNAFEST — the national women’s traveling film festival — and was inspired to produce this first National Women’s History Month Festival.

“For all the progress that’s been made in recognizing women artists, there’s still a huge chasm when it comes to visibility,” Kramer says. “Our goal is not only to help promote local artists but also to inspire women of all ages to participate in the arts. One of the best ways to convey women’s history is through artistic expression.”

The festival she has started offers five events spanning three weekends. They feature poetry, instrumental and vocal music, visual art and films all created and/or performed by women. A $40 pass covers all events, including the opening and closing receptions; tickets for individual events are also available.

Filiae Mundi (or “daughters of the world”), the kick-off event on Saturday, is a sing-in for high-school girls. The daylong workshop culminates in a public performance at 2:30 p.m. at the Community Matters sanctuary in Lower Price Hill. The program features works by women composers and singers and will be led by guest conductors Robyn Lana, Lisa Peters and Dr. Catherine Roma.

On Sunday, Dr. Brenda Portman performs a 4 p.m. concert of works by women composers at the Hyde Park Community Methodist Church, where she is resident organist. Portman has recorded several CDs that feature contemporary works, including her own compositions.

A daylong street festival dubbed “The Artistry of Women” is set for March 10 at Community Matters — Saint Michael Street by the sanctuary will be closed. It features a variety of free activities, a marketplace and food trucks. Its schedule includes poetry events involving Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel and a noontime coffeehouse concert devoted to women singer/songwriters and dedicated to the late Therese Edell, a Cincinnati native whose 1977 recording From Women’s Faces is considered a classic in women’s music.

At the street festival, MUSE Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir will present two 45-minute concerts led by Music Director Jillian Harrison-Jones. (There is an admission charge for those performances.)

On March 17, Dr. Tammy Kernodle will speak at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Walnut Hills on women’s roles in the civil rights movement, particularly as they were expressed through song. Dr. Kernodle is a professor of musicology at Miami University and an authority on African-American women musicians. Her talk is titled “Tryin’ Times: Black Women, Soul and Narratives of Resistance in the Age of Black Power” and will look at songs by Aretha Franklin, the Staple Singers, Roberta Flack and Nina Simone.

The festival concludes on March 18 at Hebrew Union College in Clifton with a LUNAFEST film screening, followed by a closing reception and MUSE performance.

The festival is also designed to highlight someone who will receive proceeds from the festival’s events. This year’s recipient is MUSE. The award carries an obligation to pay it forward; the choral group plans to do that with a concert at a women’s prison near Dayton.

It’s an ambitious undertaking but Kramer is unfazed by logistical challenges. She served as MUSE’s accompanist and associate director for 18 years and as educational program manager for Baldwin Piano Co.

Last year, she created AlivenArts as an “arts collaborative incubator,” she says.

“Our goal is to make connections and to increase access to the benefits of the arts, whether they’re the audience, the participants or patrons,” she says. “Cincinnati has one of the most diverse and thriving arts scenes anywhere, especially for a city this size. It can only get better as more people get involved.”

The AlivenArts National Women’s History Month Festival runs Saturday-March 18. For a detailed schedule and more information, visit alivenarts.org.

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