Women get stage to themselves at arts festival

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
East Hartford/Region - posted Wed., Mar. 16, 2011
Waking Elliot, with dual lead vocalists Mary Carson and Allyson Brown, are set to take the stage at the SWAN Day festival March 26. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

One of the largest arts festivals in the area is coming to the East Hartford Community Cultural Center on March 26.

SWAN (Supporting Women Artists Now) Day is celebrating its fourth year in Connecticut. This year will bring a new mix of musicans, crafters, painter, sculptors, dancers, and artists of other media.

Coordinator Jennifer Hill said the Cultural Center suits the festival rather well, and she hopes East Hartford becomes SWAN's permanent home.

The centerpiece of the festival is the main music stage. Performing artists are scheduled to include She Eats Planets, The Grimm Generation, Sarah LeMieux, SisterFunk, Canyon, Addie Brownlee, The And Band, Laura Ganci,Waking Elliot and Hill's own band, Jennifer Hill and Co. All of them, except for Canyon and Brownlee are from Connecticut.

"We have always taken the grassroot philosophy when it comes to life, especially music," said Denise Troy of Sister Funk. "We believe that a fortress is nothing without a strong foundation, so [we] encourage and empower. Being an all-female band we couldn't be more proud and thrilled to be participating in an event dedicated to the acknowledgement and support of women artists."

Hill said the lineup is a broad mix of genres and centers on local artists. LeMieux has performed, along with Hill, at all three previous events.

“I think we’re going to throw in a few surprises,” Hill said of her band’s performance. “The surprise may be that we do a couple of covers. We don’t usually do that. I like to be a little theatrical at SWAN.”

“Upon hearing about SWAN the last few years and watching how it has been growing bigger and bigger, we felt we had to participate,” said Carmen Champagne, lead singer of the Grimm Generation. “It's wonderful to be a part of an event that celebrates the many talented independent female artists within the community.”

“We are overjoyed to have been chosen as performers,” said Waking Elliot member Mary Carson. “There seems to be a perception that women can't 'rock.' As a band fronted by two female vocalists, it is our goal to help change the way people view female artists. We are in full support of the SWAN Day mission and we are thrilled to participate in the event!”

“Females can be very catty and competitive, but we can also be compassionate shoulders to lean on,” said Ganci. “This event represents females who are all about helping each other out, and who want to build a community of female artists and fans of female artists who are like-minded in the sense that we want to build one another up, not tear each other down.”

Martha Richards, founder and director of WomenArts, which created the SWAN Day events internationally, said the Connecticut event, one of more than 500 world-wide, is one of the five largest, thanks to Hill and her supporters.

“It’s a holiday,” Richards said. “We encourage anyone who wants to create SWAN Day events, and we’ve had them in 14 countries. There’s one in Bulgaria, one in Kenya, and one in Germany this year.”

Richards said the idea came about because of discrimination against women artists.

“WomenArts had been thinking that we needed a signature event,” Richards said. “Our two goals are to increase opportunities for women artists—meaning either jobs or funding—and then the other one is to increase the visibility for women artists.”

“The venue is the most different thing about it this year. It adds more integrity to the show,” Hill said. “It’ll make it feel like more of a production, which it is. I think it makes things nicer for everyone involved. I’m basically looking for a home base, and this would be a nice fit, and I think the show will add something to the community of East Hartford if this is going to be our home base.”

“Jenn does a really great event and it seems to grow every year,” Richards said, adding that the event also fosters an avenue for local artists to network.

“What we’ve found is that it’s the first time that they’ve made those types of connections and it’s really exciting for them to be working together on a project,” Richards said. “Many artists suffer from isolation of different kinds, but it’s good for them to get together and feel that sense of community.”

Part of that community-minded inclusion, locally-supplied refreshments will also be available.

East Hartford brewery Ten Penny Ale, concessions from the EHCCC, and caterer Pin-Up Girl Catering will each have food and/or beverage stations at the event.

The event runs from 6 -11:00 p.m. on March 26 at 50 Chapman Place, East Hartford. Admission is $12.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/swandayct or www.womenarts.org.

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