“I think it’s so important to just be heard. There’s so much power in that and so much healing that comes from being able to be heard,” says Madison artist Lilada Gee. “But I think the other thing is the understanding that this is a community issue and the need for community response to what is going on is absolutely crucial. So I hope people leave the event with something in mind that they can do to make the Madison artistic community safer for Black women and girls to express themselves creatively.”
Five Black women artists from several artistic genres will share their true experiences in Madison as they take part in a panel discussion of what support they need and are not currently receiving as creatives in this city at “Black Women Artists Speak” tonight, 6-8 p.m., at the Madison College Goodman South Campus.
“I think this event is important because it gives Black women artists a platform to express their voices to the conversation of art and in creative expression in Madison,” Gee says. “I think those voices have been grossly missing and I think they’re important to hear from the various creative disciplines in Madison. We really have a lot of creative people here in Madison … we have a lot of artists and directors, and I don’t think people really know it.”
Gee twice had terrible and traumatic things happen to her while she was participating in the recent “Ain’t I A Woman?” Triennial exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. (Both stories were first broken by Madison365.) First, Gee had to end her work on the “Ain’t I A Woman?” exhibit at MMoCA after being verbally assaulted and physically intimidated by an Overture Center employee. Soon after that, her actual exhibit — which she didn’t finish because of the first incident — was vandalized at MMoCA.
Gee and about half of the 23 artists featured in “Ain’t I A Woman?” Triennial exhibition withdrew their works in protest. In an open letter to MMoCA, the Black women artists have accused the museum of “institutional racist violence.”
Nevertheless, Gee says that she doesn’t want the focus of tonight’s event to just be on her and her high-profile incidents. “I think that it’s important for people to realize this isn’t a ‘Lilada problem’ or a ‘Lilada issue’ … and that this is something that impacts every Black woman artist in this community and those who aspire to be artists, too,” she says.
In addition to Gee, the panel discussion at Black Women Artists Speak will include Madison-area artists including Madison’s former poet laureate Fabu Carter; UW-Madison poet Grace Ruo; author, theater artist and artistic director Catrina Sparkman; and musician, visual artist and teacher Sonia Valle
The discussion will center on ways in which art institutions, funders and philanthropic communities can be supportive to help ensure equity and fairness in the Madison arts.
This panel is sponsored by The Madison Arts Commission, Friends of Madison Arts Commission, and Seein Is Believin LLC. The event is free and open to the public but in-person attendance is limited to the first 200 registrants. Refreshments from Melly Mell’s Soul Food will be provided for those who attend in person. Registrants may attend virtually.
“In the end, we have to do more than just host these events. We have to make sure that it’s safe for Black women to participate in the arts,” Gee says.
Black Women Artists Speak will take place tonight, 6-8 p.m. in Community Room 203 at the Madison College Goodman South Campus 2429 Perry St, Madison. The panel discussion will also be available to watch online. Registration is free, and once it fills up, the city will send a Zoom link for people to attend virtually. Email [email protected] to request any accommodations.