Celebrating women in the arts
March is Women’s History Month, and the Ludington Area Center for the Arts is celebrating with a slew of events highlighting the artistic accomplishments of women throughout history.
The month kicked off with the opening of a new exhibit, “A Celebration of Women in the Arts,” which debuted with an artist reception on March 1.
The exhibit was curated by longtime LACA board member Jane Carpenter, and consists of dozens of submissions from local artists working in the styles of famous women painters, photographers and sculptors.
“I’ve had this in the back of my head for a long time,” Carpenter said of the exhibit. “It’s challenged people to get out of their comfort zones and pushed boundaries … and I hope people can come and learn about the roll women have played in the history of art.”
The exhibit will continue through Saturday, March 30 in the main gallery.
A side exhibit focusing on local artists, is also on display throughout the month.
“We have art from Ludington-area women who were very active in the arts, but are now deceased,” Carpenter said.
“A Celebration of Past Mason County Women Artists,” is in the performance hall gallery throughout the month of March and will feature pieces by the artists as well as biographical information.
‘The Amazing Fair Women’
Also in celebration of Women’s History Month, LACA will premiere a brand new, original play titled “The Amazing Fair Women.”
Written by Carpenter, “The Amazing Fair Women” tells the story of the women responsible for creating the Women’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair held in Chicago to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World in 1492.
The play features the women who collaborated for the building’s creation, from architects and planners to social leaders, activists, sculptors and authors.
Carpenter said the idea came to her when she was conducting research for the arts center’s Women’s History Month activities.
“I came across something on Google about the Women’s Building … and it was put together by women, for women and all the art in the building was by women,” she said. “They had a library with 7,000 entries from women all over the world.”
She said she was inspired by the story, and felt a desire to bring the collaborative project to the stage during Women’s History Month.
“They were such fabulous women,” Carpenter said. “This was back before women could vote, before they could serve on a jury — there were so many things they just couldn’t do, and these women figured out how to put it all together.”
As the play unfolds, the women face opposition, not only from the preconceptions of society, but from within their ranks as well, as ideological differences about the role of politics in the project became a source of conflict.
“There was controversy between the women, (between) suffragettes involved and the women who didn’t want it to be political,” she said. “Some were part of the Queen Isabella Society — who argued that (Columbus’ travels) would not have been possible without the financial help of the queen — and others … just wanted to show what women were capable of.”
The play features Susan B. Anthony, Bertha Palmer and many other famous women who did their part to reinvigorate the city following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Director Chris Plummer said bringing Carpenter’s vision to fruition has been a rewarding and powerful experience.
“Working on this project with Jane has been so rewarding,” Plummer said. “I’ve learned about these remarkable women and their incredible passion and fortitude to get the Woman’s Building designed, constructed and filled with art and literary works.”
Plummer said the play focuses on a key period in women’s history, when the struggle for suffrage and fair treatment was beginning to pick up steam.
“This was all done during the time women were fighting for the vote and basic rights,” she said. “Jane has really given these women life through her writing of this play. I can’t wait to see it go from the page to the stage.”
“The Amazing Fair Women” will be presented in a readers theater format and will feature a slide show depicting images of art and architecture from the era.
There will be a dress rehearsal sponsored by Zonta Club of Ludington at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 29, and the show premieres at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 30.
“The Amazing Fair Women” concludes with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 31.
All performances are at the LACA performance hall, 107 S. Harrison St. in Ludington.
Kara Rose — Bertha Palmer, president of the Board of Lady Managers
Kathy Hansen — Susan B. Anthony; Amey Starkweather, Lady Manager from Rhode Island and superintendent of the Woman’s Building
Dee Payment — Phoebe Couzins, Lady Manager from Missouri and member of the Queen Isabella Society
Kendra Gilchrist — Sophia Hayden, architect and construction supervisor of the Woman’s Building
Chastity Morris — Enid Yandell, sculptor and author from Kentucky; Mary Macmonnies, artist
Rhonda Richards — Candace Wheeler, founder of the New York Society of Decorative Arts and color director of the Woman’s Building
Mary Wickwire — Edith Clarke, cataloger for the Library of the Woman’s Building
On Friday, in celebration of International Women’s Day, LACA will host a gallery talk by Ferris State University arts professor Rachel Foulk, who will discuss the historical heritage of women in the arts from 5 to 8 p.m. in the main gallery.
The gallery talk is sponsored by Advancing Women Artists (AWA) and will feature a screening of the documentary “Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence.”
“The film has been produced by Advancing Women Artists and PBS about women artists whose work was lost, and is now being found and restored,” Carpenter said. “Dr. Foulk will talk about the movie and kind of tie in the art that’s in the gallery as well.”
The gallery talk is part of a international initiative by AWA, with similar events being held in art institutions, universities and galleries across the U.S., Europe and Australia.
Foulk received her doctorate in art history from Emory University, specializing in ancient Greek and Roman art. She is currently writing a book, “Politics of Place: Landscape Painting in Ancient Rome,” exploring place and power during the Roman Empire.
Foulk teaches a wide range of art history and humanities courses at FSU, and aims to emphasize the appreciation of art as an important form of human expression.
A social hour will take place at 6 p.m., prior to the showing of the 30-minute documentary.
The arts center will also screen the film “Frida,” a biopic about famous Mexican surrealist and political activist Frida Kahlo.
The Academy Award-nominated film was directed by Julie Taymor, and will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21 in the main gallery.
Books about and by women artists will be available for visitors to peruse and borrow from LACA’s library.
For more information about LACA’s Women’s History Month events, call the arts center at (231) 845-2787.