But true to form, Carol Greenberg of the local nonprofit Morningstar Arts is thinking outside the box when it comes to the festival she’s organized -- the Women’s Independent Network (WIN) Festival, March 29-April 1.
WIN-Fest is notable in that rather than appealing to the same older, moneyed demographic that many local festivals pursue, it’s expressly designed to appeal to a younger age range.
“I’ve noticed a lot of emerging artists here, but a lot leave Savannah,” Greenberg says. “Many get trained here but they leave because they can’t find jobs. We have some wonderful entrepreneurship projects but young people sometimes don’t know how to tap into these resources.”
Seeing the major obstacle to getting more women, especially young women, further involved in cultural activities as the gap between the art side and the business side, Greenberg chose to specifically focus on doing something about it.
“I think we have cutting edge jobs in art, graphic design and communication, and we want to bridge the gap by networking,” she says. “We’re talking about those with a serious interest in art, from film production to photography. We want to teach people basic business skills.”
While this year’s inaugural WIN-Fest boasts a concert by the Atlanta band Venus 7, cutting-edge performance hosted by the Savannah Actor’s Theatre and indie film screenings, Greenberg says the heart of WIN-Fest is the free workshops.
“For me the most important purpose of WIN-Fest is the workshops. We’re going to show women how to think outside the box, how to find careers in the arts and how to present themselves,” she says.
“Some of the workshops talk about gender marketing, but basically they’re going to tell you that you have to be able to talk to everybody and how best to do that,” Greenberg says.
“We would love art people to stay in Savannah. The more people that are cutting edge here, the more that will contribute to the economic strength of community.”
Six “Expose Yourself” events -- planned by, for and about women to showcase emerging talent -- are another major component of the four-day festival.
Thursday night, March 29, the Savannah Actor’s Theater (SAT) will host a performance event entitled “Expose Yourself: Acting Out.” The keynote speaker will be Andrew Meyer, associate producer of Fried Green Tomatoes, who will talk about how it takes a man to open a women’s festival.
Then the spotlight will be handed over to Kye Walker, an assistant film professor at Savannah State University.
March 30-31 is time to support local artists and jewelers at “Expose Yourself: A Fine Arts Affair.” Booths will be overflowing with inspired pieces at the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (and Sunday from 10 to 2). One hundred percent of the profits will go to the artists themselves.
Also at the JEA on Friday, March 30, Memorial Health representatives will help power up women’s bodies at lunch time (12-1) through a discussion dealing with women’s health, and even careers for artists at hospitals.
Workshops handling such topics as book writing, computer business, and even dance will be available on both Friday at the JEA and Saturday at various locales. Professionals in their field will be teaching these classes, and even those who are experienced can join in by taking the master classes for their particular area of expertise.
Pre-registration is required and filling up fast, so go to morningstararts.org for more info.
Another “Expose Yourself” happens at SAT at 7:15 p.m. Friday. Entitled “Women’s Short Shorts,” this mini-film fest boasts local filmmakers with big ideas. Preceding the films, Aleigh Acerni, local editor of Skirt! and Kelly Love Johnson, regional editor of Skirt! will speak about uncovering women’s dream jobs.
If you like to express yourself in theater or film, check out “Expose Yourself: Upside-down” Saturday at the SAT from 1-5 p.m. It’s an open call for cast and crew for a local independent film production entitled Pineapple Upside-down Cake.
Saturday night at the SAT, “Expose Yourself: Live at the Mike” will include the Savannah Derby Devils and various performers. The Derby Devils will be “live and talking” complete with clips of their bouts. (You can watch the Derby Girls in action at Lake Mayer on Sunday, April 1, from 2:15-3:30 p.m.)
Saturday evening, March 31, brings a concert by the difficult-to-define Venus 7 of Atlanta, who will perform a fusion of jazz, hip hop, and soul. The band’s name symbolizes female love and completion, making them perfect for the inclusive feeling of the festival.
The band comprises Ingrid Sibley and Dorothy Bell (the two classically trained front women), Justin Ellington on drums, Tammy Stanko on bass, and Corey Stayton on guitar.
Bell tells how the band got involved in WIN-Fest.
“Oh it was actually a couple friends of ours who attend SCAD,” she says. “They mentioned the festival and that it was going to cater towards inspiring women artists.”
Venus 7’s second CD, Primer, is due out in April. “It’s pretty much our diaries in music,” admits Bell.
“Music is a cure-all. Ingrid and I have that in common. When you’re in a bad mood you can just pick up your guitar. It’s how we get through life. it’s the easiest voice we have.”
Opening for Venus 7 is Savannah local Ina Williams, a talented singer who blends r&b, jazz, and indie influences.
The entire free concert begins at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, March 31 at Savannah Actor’s Theatre’s base in The Ark Theatre on Louisville Rd.
The Women’s Independent Network itself is a two-year initiative for aspiring female artists and performers. It began in January with the first-ever workshop called WIN-Photo, sponsored by The City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs. This class’s goal was to spark curiosity into future photojournalists.
Claire Oosterhoudt is a student who took the class.
“I really liked being able to see the photographic work of other aspiring photojournalists and their perceptions of women in the community,” she said. “It gave me a better understanding of why photography has such an important role in telling a story.”
The students who participated in WIN-Photo will have their work exhibited at the Telfair on Sunday from 3:30-5 p.m., the grand finale of the festival. This multigenerational exhibit connects the student with the experts and gives the student a chance to have their work in a recognized museum.
The first-ever WIN-Fest happens all around town from March 29-April 1.
For a complete schedule of events, concerts, appearances and workshops, as well as more info about the Women’s Independent Network, go to: www.morningstararts.org/win/index.html