Monday, January 30, 2012

Women in Art Conference - St. Louis

American women’s artistic creativity is mind boggling. Attending the Women in the Arts Conference at the University of Missouri St. Louis was a great testament to my opening statement. Dr. Barbara Harbach organized an inspiring conference that fostered women’s accomplishments and acknowledged the diversity of women as creators.

Martin and I performed our Gena show the evening before the conference opening. A warm, receptive audience awaited us and at the “talk back” we were greeted with questions about Gena Branscombe and her era. Once again, we made friends with wonderful, caring people.

Women from across the United States came to St. Louis to present concerts and lectures about their books, poetry, music, art and documentary films. Two evening concerts featured music of composer-in-residence Beth Denisch of Berklee College.

With three days of presentations, it would be difficult to single out one woman presenter as the best. Every woman who participated had a high level of artistic accomplishment that she shared with her colleagues in attendance. Rereading the program for the conference, I’ve chosen five women to highlight.

Self-published author Janet Goddard regaled us with the journey of writing her first book, Shake the Middle Tree. Today’s world of book publishing is complicated with books being downloaded on Nooks and Kindles. Sales of hard copy books are waning. Without a major publisher and agent, a first-time author must conjure up every ounce of their creativity to publish and market their own book. With the use of, Janet began the task of publishing and distributing her book. Manufacturing, printing and shipping are done on demand. Writer and business person now has her book available on Amazon. I highly recommend you read Janet’s book!

Canisius College theory teacher Dr. Carole Harris lectured about the connection between American composer Louise Talma and French composer, conductor and teacher, Nadia Boulanger. This was an intriguing and detailed account of these two dynamic women’s relationship and music.

Women in the arts are not only creative, they are business people with skills in marketing, development and money management. Poet Jennifer Tappenden formed her own poetry publishing company, Architrave Press. Working with lawyers and accountants who understand the business side of creativity, Jennifer has built a Limited Liability Partnership that prints poems on individual pieces of paper. Readers visit her company’s website to order specific poems or a complete edition. You collect and put your chosen poem in a chapbook or journals. All this creates a poetic bridge for those of us non-poets. Creativity and business sense at its best!

American born, London based composer and pianist, Lola Perrin performed her Piano Suite VI: Theory of K which was written for the Music, Science and the Brain symposium at the University of Plymouth. Building upon a steady rhythmic flow and subtle dynamic shadings, her composition and playing pulled the audience to her. Lola is not only a performer, she is a piano teacher in London and has self published 12 volumes of her own works. She has her own website and Lola Perrin Sheet Music.

Filming and producing her first documentary, Renee Thomas Woods presented portions of her film, “The Great Northwest: It’s Not About Us, It’s About Them.” This inspiring documentary is about students from the Northwest Academy of Law in St. Louis whose school was once a shining star and slowly slid into decay. With the foresight, guidance and leadership of a high energy principal, the students, teachers and staff cultivate an environment based on encouragement, love, family, academic achievement, support and individual success. This film from its creator gave great hope for the future of American education. Thank you Renee.

These five women were only highlights of nearly 40 presentations. We were motivated by each others’ creativity and bound together by Dr. Harbach’s enthusiasm and leadership of Women in the Arts!

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