Pen Women Read, Discuss, and Connect at ArtRage Gallery's Exhibition "The Struggle to Connect"
Pen Women from the CNY Branch read original poetry and prose that led to animated discussions about racism, white privilege, and what we can do to help expose and defeat cultural racism. The reading and conversation took place in the ArtRage--Norton Putter Gallery in Syracuse, NY on the evening of March 9, 2022. Curated by Pen Woman artist Vanessa Johnson, the riveting art and written word exhibition was the starting point for an exchange of experiences, ideas, and hopes for a country still in the throes of racism. The "Call and Response" exhibition runs from February 5th to March 19, 2022 in the ArtRage Gallery.
Ms. Johnson led off the special evening with a video tour of the art for Pen Women participating in the event via ZOOM. Other Pen Women members toured the Gallery in person before Ms. Johnson read a quotation from poet Audre Lorde: "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own," followed by her own poem. Pen Women read their works that were paired with the art before discussing what led to the creation of that particular creative work. The evening included a conversation with all members present via ZOOM or in person about the roles we play, both consciously and subconsciously, in continuing to allow racism around us.
The "Call and Response" event was partially underwritten by a community arts collaborative grant between the CNY Pen Women, the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation Gage Ambassador Program, the YMCA after school program at McKinley Brighton School, the Syracuse ArtRage Gallery, and Sankofa N.E.S.T. Griot Guides program. "Teaching Poetry /Swapping Memories," grant was written by Vanessa Johnson and Karen Hempson in order to support this arts outreach in the community. This extensive program was kicked off with a ZOOM presentation from national SLAM poet Taylor Mali and continues with Pen Women teaching students about poetry in various locations around the Syracuse area.
Pictured are Vanessa Johnson, Susan Murphy, Nancy Dafoe and Vanessa Johnson, Bobbie Dumas Panek and Johnson, and in the group photo are Mary Gardner reading, Susan Wolstenholme, Judith McGinn, and Dafoe.