"We want to celebrate the experiences and creative works of women in Atlanta," says Ruth Anna Millman, a producer at Turner Classic Movies and director of the new festival. "There are so many talented women artists in this city, and a festival focused on them will draw more attention to, and appreciation for, the awesome amount of talent present here."
The idea for Seen + Heard came about in 1999, when fate and a rainy day brought the festival founders together at Church Street Coffee in Decatur. Gathered there in smaller groups, performance artist Deidra Currie; dancer Martha Donovan; theater directors Stephanie Harvey, Rachel May, Sarah Raskin and Colleen Hammond; actress Josie Burgin Lawson; creator of the Big Mama Cinefest film festival Shayna Nickel; and Millman began talking and discovered they had similar interests in starting a women's arts festival. Since that chance meeting, the founders have established themselves as EstroFest Productions and have worked toward the goal of creating an annual festival that fosters an atmosphere for celebrating art, networking, inspiring collaborations and community connections.
"Our mission as EstroFest Productions is to combine the arts with activism," Millman says. "We want all our projects to give back to the community."
Sticking to this notion of community involvement, EstroFest will donate the proceeds from this year's festival to Charis Circle and Cool Girls, organizations offering self-empowerment programs for women and girls. In addition, the festival has incorporated a variety of workshops into its schedule of events. These free workshops enable women to explore their creative sides or to make improvements in their lives.
While the workshops are primarily designed for women, Millman says the festival itself is not a "chick thing." She points to the gender-crossing success of the sold-out Aug. 26 preview show as evidence of the festival's broad appeal. "I'm quite sure both women and men will get a hell of a lot of entertainment out of this festival," she says. "They did at our sneak preview."
Still, Seen + Heard is a women's art festival, and its purpose is to offer female artists a way to gain exposure for their works. Selected from summer and fall submissions, the art and performances presented in the festival are mainly concerned with sharing and celebrating the experiences and stories of women.
"These stories need to be seen and heard," Millman says. "And ultimately, having a women's arts festival will help to strengthen the women's community in Atlanta."
Running at various locations throughout February, the bulk of the festival's events take place Feb. 7-11. Visit www.estrofest.org or call 404-797-0489 for more information on the following events:
Big Mama Cinefest Film Night, sponsored by IMAGE Film and Video Center, includes two feature-length films (Shelley Niro's Honey Moccasin and Ellen Spiro's Roam Sweet Home) at 7:30 p.m. and 10 shorts at 10 p.m. Feb. 9. $10-$12. PushPush Theater, 1123 Zonolite Road. See Short Subjectives in the Flicks section.
Estro Rock Music Night features performances by local women musicians and bands. Performers include Doria Roberts, Gentle Readers, The Stimulants, Sonia Leigh, Lift and more. Feb. 7. 7 p.m.-midnight. $10-$12. Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave.
Expanding Spaces, Shifting Shapes: Performance Art, Dance, Spoken Word Night presents storytelling, dance, poetry, performance art, spoken word, puppetry and more. Curated by Martha Donovan and Deidra Currie. Features dancer Hope Mirlis, storyteller Peggy Jones, performance artist Colleen O'Hare and others. Feb. 11 at 5:30 and 8 p.m. $10-$12. PushPush Theater, 1123 Zonolite Road.
Rising Women Artists Night features the works of female artists, ages 13-24, in theater, poetry, music and dance. Curated by Colleen Hammond Whitmore. Feb. 8 at 7:30 and 10 p.m. $10-$12. PushPush Theater, 1123 Zonolite Road.
Theatre Night premieres excerpts and short plays by local female playwrights and directors. Plays include Kim Brundidge's "Reasonable Doubt," Karla Jennings' "Dogs," Janea Rae Boyles' "The Tornado Girls," and more. Feb. 10 at 7:30 and 10 p.m. $10-$12. PushPush Theater, 1123 Zonolite Road. See theater openings in Arts Agenda.
Goddesses in Progress, an exhibit featuring life-sized self-portraits by children artists. Curated by Sarah Landrum. Feb. 1-28. Mon.-Thurs. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Chastain Art Center, 135 W. Wieuca Road.
Our Visions/Our Voices: Current Works by Atlanta Women Artists, works by more than 20 local women artists, including Donna Pickens and Corinne Adams. Curated by Julie Puttgen and Sarah Landrum. Feb. 7-21. Opening night Feb. 9 from 7-10 p.m. Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Barbara Archer Gallery, 1123 Zonolite Road.
Workshops for Women includes creativity and self-improvement courses in "Quilting," "Self-Defense for Women" and "Women Getting a Financial Life." Feb. 10 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Feb. 11 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. PushPush Theater, 1123 Zonolite Road. See classes and education in Happenings.