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Swan Day celebrates women artists

Events slated for March/April in Dayton, Cincinnati

Swan Day, an international celebration of women artists, will take place both in Dayton and Cincinnati this year and will feature an eclectic mix of performances and artwork. SWAN stands for Support Women Artists Now.

The annual commemoration is traditionally held on the last Saturday of March during Women’s History Month. The Dayton event is free and will take place on Saturday, March 30, at the downtown Dayton Metro Library.

In Cincinnati, because the official Swan Day falls during Easter Weekend, the larger celebration has been moved to Sunday, April 14. On March 30, Cincinnati will hold a “Spring Sing” circle.

Poet Kristie LeVangie of Middletown admits she wasn’t sure what to expect when she auditioned for Dayton’s first Swan Day last year.

“I was blown away by the talent of the diverse group of women,” LeVangie said. “From the young girl who read to the audience from her book to the more mature woman who shared her poetry, there was a spectrum of art and creativity that was inspiring and so entertaining. It is a congregation of community that highlights local talent and fosters artistic creation.”

LeVangie said she was especially impressed to discover that the day included women of various ages, sexual orientations, backgrounds and art forms. As a result, her 14-year-old daughter, Talianna, who lives in Norwood, will be singing and playing the guitar at this year’s Dayton event.

How Swan Day Began

It’s the sixth annual international Swan Day. The concept is the result of a creative collaboration between Martha Richards, founder and executive director of WomenArts in Berkeley, Calif., and Jan Lisa Huttner, a Chicago film critic and founder of WITASWAN (Women in the Audiences Supporting Women Artists Now.)

Richards, interviewed by phone from her office in California, said she’s been overwhelmed by the way the idea has taken off. There have been more than 900 Swan events in the past five years, and the special day is now celebrated in 23 countries with everything from festivals and film screenings to play readings, concerts, exhibits, community forums and parties — all featuring women artists. Some communities hold a month-long celebration.

Richards said women artists are often isolated and that Swan Day is partly an attempt to bring them together. It’s also a way for communities to discover all of the local talent that’s right there “in their own backyard,” she said.

Richards singled out Dayton’s inaugural event last year in her organization’s newsletter, along with a story on Swan Day Kenya. She labeled the Dayton program “ambitious and intriguing.”

“One of the most exciting aspects of the Dayton showcase is its inclusion of very young participants,” the newsletter stated. “The youngest is Kristina Cardoza, who, at age 10, is the author of the children’s book ‘Pinky Bunny’s First Day of Kindergarten.’ “

The story also noted that the producers “have made some great curatorial choices to integrate the themes of childhood, growth and personal development in the films, performances and readings throughout the program.”

Dayton Day

Credit for Swan Day Dayton goes to Stacey Lane, a 32-year-old playwright from Miamisburg who serves as event producer along with Dara Cosby. This year’s event will feature short films, plays, visual art exhibits, readings by authors and live music.

“It’s a labor of love, and we’re all volunteers,” said Lane, who says about twice as many artists auditioned this year as last. A steering committee selects participants and tries to plan a varied program. This year, 17 short acts will be included.

For the first time, the Dayton Metro Library is co-sponsoring the event; the Main Library has been displaying the work of Swan Day artists.

Joy Schwab, reference librarian at the library, also serves on the library’s programming committee. When she heard about Swan Day last year, she decided to audition.

“I thought it sounded really neat, and I thought I could come and read my poetry,” she said. “The nice thing about it is that it is multi-media with people of different ages.”

Afterwards, she suggested the library become a co-sponsor.

Cincinnati’s Swan Day

Womens Way — an organization that supports female artists in film, music, dance and theater — has presented an event in Cincinnati since 2009, according to the group’s director Beverly Bowers.

“Swan Day encourages communities to open their playhouses, theaters, concert halls and galleries to focus on art created by women,” she said. “Maybe there will be a film directed by a woman, a play written by a woman, a dance danced by a woman, creative art designed by a woman.”

Bowers said Cincinnati’s annual event has grown into “a more centralized experience” now that another organization, Women Writing for (a) Change, has opened up their building to the artists. On Swan Day, the spring sing will be led by Shelley Graff, who has been sharing original songs about women’s lives for more than 20 years.

“Our April 14 event will have songwriters, music, poets, story-tellers and artists — from potters, painters and possibly a candlestick maker,” Bowers said. “Our events are open to all, and we encourage the men in our community to join in the fun to support these artists.

“For one day around the world, we encourage women to present their art to the public, raise their profile in the community, and help bring a balance to our world,” she said.

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