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Bard College at Simon’s Rock International Women’s Day Conference Celebrates the Power of Women in the Arts

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA—Bard College at Simon’s Rock’s hosts the Eighth Annual International Women's Day Conference, with the theme “The Power of Women in the Arts,” on Saturday, March 7, 2009 in the college’s Daniel Arts Center. A staged reading of novelist and playwright Carol Gilligan’s adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” will kick off the conference on Friday, March 6, 2009, at 6:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with the author. The conference welcomes members of the public, with registration and payment instructions available onlineFOR LOGO OR PHOTOS CONTACT BRIEE DELLA ROCCA OR JENNIFER BROWDY DE HERNANDEZ.  

This year’s speakers will focus on the struggles women have had to confront and overcome to express themselves creatively. In particular, they will consider the impact and power of women in the arts both personally and in the broader social realm—sharing personal stories of the challenges they have confronted, as well as stories of their artistic triumphs. 

Dr. Susan Fisher Sterling, director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, will open Saturday’s program with a keynote address featuring an illustrated overview of the history of women in the arts worldwide. “We’re delighted that Dr. Sterling will inaugurate our eighth International Women’s Day conference,” IWD conference founder, director and Simon’s Rock faculty member Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez said. “She is uniquely qualified to give the audience a sense of the powerful work women are creating worldwide today, and throughout history.”

A morning panel, “Cultivating Women’s Creative Expression: Challenges and Triumphs,will be moderated by Simon’s Rock professor of theater Aimee Michel. Panelists will include celebrated and multi-talented women artists Karen Allen, Veronica Chambers, and Carol Gilligan.

Simon’s Rock faculty member Karen Allen will discuss the evolution of her work as an actor and a fiber artist. Allen is best known for her cinematic work—Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Raiders of the Last Ark, Starman, The Glass Menagerie, Scrooged, The Sandlot, The Perfect Storm, and In the Bedroom. She has also seen success as a fiber artist and designer, and owns/operates a local boutique, Karen Allen Fibers. 

Simon’s Rock alumna Veronica Chambers will discuss themes introduced in her most recent book, Kickboxing Geishas, which examines the changing role of women in Japan. Chambers has established a long list of credits, both in magazines and in book-length works. She has written for magazines from Essence to Vogue, and has recently joined the staff at Glamour. In addition to her career in journalism, Chambers has published many books—Mama's Girl; Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation; Miss Black America; and Having It All?: Black Women and Success.

Author and psychologist, Carol Gilligan, once named by Time as one of the 25 most influential Americans, will discuss the differences in the ways that male and female artists are nurtured. Her landmark book, In A Different Voice was described by Harvard University Press as "the little book that started a revolution.” Gilligan has also authored The Birth of Pleasure and the novel Kyra. Her play, The Scarlet Letter was presented as part of the 2007 WomenCenterStage festival in New York City with Marissa Tomai as Hester; her monologue, "My House is Wallpapered with Lies," was performed as part of the June 2006 V-Day festival, "Until the Violence Stops: NYC".

The conference will showcase the work of women in a variety of crafts through an invitational Arts & Crafts Market curated by Barbara Cohen-Hobbs featuring art and crafts produced by women, including Karen Allen, Maureen Banner, Nancy Bronstein, Sue Browdy, Mary Anne Davis, Pauline Dongala, Valerie Fanarjian, Ellen Grenadier, Wendy Jensen, Mary Kate Jordan, Anna Kronick, Anne Martin, Cheryl Mirer, Theresa May O’Brien, Wendy Rabinowitz, Natasha Wosniak and more.  

The afternoon panel, “Women’s Art: Why it Matters and What it Achieves in the World,” will be introduced by accordionist and Simon’s Rock alumna Heather Fisch, and moderated by Simon’s Rock professor of art history Joan DelPlato. Afternoon panelists will consider the political implications of art, and its potential for social impact. Speakers will include:

Dr. Marjorie Agosin, poet, human rights activist and Spanish professor at Wellesley College. Agosin, who has become a spokeswoman for the Jewish community in Latin America, will give an illustrated talk about her extensive collection of Chilean arpilleras—handmade tapestries that were used to send political messages during the Chilean “dirty war” of the 1980s.  Agosin’s many publications include A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile; Writing Toward Hope: The Literature of Human Rights in Latin America; Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez Memory; Oblivion; and Jewish Culture in Latin America; and Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile.

Amber Chand, a social entrepreneur whose business, The Amber Chand Collection, nurtures women craftspeople from post-conflict areas and works consciously to use art in the service of reconciliation and peace-building

Kristin Jones, internationally recognized visual artist, will speak of her grand-scale installations on the Tiber River in Rome and her vision for an international “water theater” involving the Tiber River and the Hudson River in New York City

Martha Richards, founder of the Fund for Women Artists as well as the internationally celebrated SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now) will discuss her work as a longtime arts activist.

An original performance directed by Irina Brook, director in residence at Shakespeare & Company, will close the conference.

This year’s International Women’s Day Conference at Bard College at Simon’s Rock is a signature event of the first annual Berkshire Festival of Women in the Arts, sponsored by The Women’s Times.  The month-long Festival will continue to highlight—with events, speakers, and exhibitions throughout the county—the power of women in the arts throughout the month of March. For more information, and a listing of all Festival programs, visit www.thewomenstimes.com.