Name: Abigail Wagner
Type of Project: Creative and Artistic Endeavor
1. My project was to produce a full print, intersectional feminist art and culture magazine. The magazine showcases works from artists and writers who belong to marginalized groups in hopes to give a platform and create space in printed media for all people. I collected art and writing submissions, designed magazine pages, and planned a release event.
2. Using the funding I received as a springboard, I was able to support artists in our community who I would have otherwise only dreamed of working with. I developed a real sense of pride in my project, and saw that pride reflected in the women who contributed and the people who now own and support the magazine. I feel a deeper sense of agency in the Columbus arts community, and it feels good to have a real product to help me navigate through it. Meeting and getting connected with people through the context of the magazine has helped me be seen through the lens of what I most care about- expression and social justice.
Secondly, I became much more aware of how important cultural competency is. My project aimed to showcase the work of gender variant people and women of color, but I am a cisgender, white woman. I had to be careful that my submission choices were based on celebrating important, relevant art, and not tokenizing any of the artists for their identities- chosen or prescribed. Also, when I held the event, I had to be sure that it was a space where all people could feel welcome. I realized that many arts spaces in Columbus (and elsewhere), whether they be galleries, venues, or publications, are fundamentally not inclusive of important people within the community. Seeing the ways that other spaces could do better in terms of cultural competency has made me reflect on how the magazine will serve all people in the community going forward.
3. When I first moved to Columbus, meeting people who I connected with was challenging as OSU is such a large campus. I used the local art and music scenes to find people who I saw myself reflected in, though it took time. Women who made art and music helped me feel capable of doing the same, and made me feel a sense of place here in Columbus. Eventually, I started noticing that there was a sheer lack of women and people of color in these spaces, or those people who were involved took secondary roles (i.e. audience members instead of makers). I made a point to seek out and draw in other women and people of color who I thought may not otherwise feel welcomed. I eventually saw the people take ownership of those spaces, and take up more active roles. For example, my roommate attended the magazine’s release party and bought a piece of art from one of the vendors. She was amazed at the community event I was able to create, and was inspired by the support that people gave to artists. A month later, she planned her own community event that showcased art, music and poetry by all women of color. It was an amazing success, and I was so grateful to have another woman doing the same work I was doing in her own way.
Another thing that pleasantly surprised me was other people’s willingness to hop on board with my mission to help make the magazine a success. I went into this project with no knowledge of how to use InDesign, and every time I met someone who knew the software I was offered help. I was so moved by other people’s unsolicited generosity and willingness to support the magazine with their various talents and resources. It made me open myself up to other local projects, and encouraged me to reach out and be generous to others. My circle of creative and activist peers has expanded tremendously since the beginning of this project, and I am grateful.
The release event itself was such an incredible part of this project. I am not myself a writer, but some friends helped me get in contact with a few poets in the area who were interested in doing a reading. All I could hope for was that the crowd at the event would be respectful and attentive. When the lat poet took to the stage and recited their poems, everyone in the room was engaged, humming affirmations, laughing along, and giving the writer all of the respect they deserved. It was everything that I knew a poetry recitation should be and I was proud that it happened int he Dollhouse’s name. Also, my friend sold her first ever painting at the event. It was sold to my roommate, and the painting hangs in my house as a reminder. Another friend brought enough paintings to fill a whole table, and they sold every one of them. That event, I feel, wrapped up in one night what this project meant to me; support, recognition, visibility, and community.
4. This transformation was key in me recognizing my agency as a change maker and as an activist. I realized that cultivating a strong sense of community is extremely important to me, which makes me feel that I should consider entering macro-level social work. I also realized that activism comes in many shapes and sizes. The kinds of cultural messages that resonate with me involve art, music and creativity. Through this project, I realized that I should not deny these things power in my life, but use them as a tool. I now feel that I can harness these interests to create and support the changes I want to see. I also realized that true inclusion involves a lot more than shallow representation. It is not only inviting people to ride along but encouraging them to take the reigns. It is acknowledging that the space I now have with this magazine is worth celebrating, but can only go so far in terms of social justice. I am now connected to a group of change makers in Columbus and I am excited to continue learning and growing.