Art + Activism = artivism. And these artivists are coming from The Womxn Project, a non-profit organization focused on building a feminist, community-based movement to further human rights. Their form of artivism is to display words on businesses around Rhode Island to send a message – one that the community is feeling and one that others need to hear.
The Womxn Project hosted their first artivism display piece in 2018. Their goal? To bring an immediate recognition to inaction with a “big, non-intrusive response.” Jocelyn Foye, director of The Womxn Project, says of the project’s beginnings, “We did it because we wanted to make a big splash that also invited folks who would be running the event to say a few words. It was a one-two punch. We organized it in less than 48 hours. We are a bunch of artists and know of this model [of art] happening for the last 20 years in the art world and beyond.”
These projected messages have returned in 2020, in response to the seemingly insurmountable social injustice happening in our country. The Womxn Project board member and artist Beth Bell says, “The projections bring the issues that our community is facing in Rhode Island directly to people’s backyards. Sometimes politics can seem like an abstract that is happening in the State House. But we can take these messages and project them on a beloved building or space that makes it more personal. Art has that power, to hit you in a more emotional, impactful way that makes you stop and pay attention for a minute.” And really, who isn’t going to stop to see giant words projected onto a building? The art is beautiful and loud, and it says exactly what it needs to.
A few of this summer’s installations include one at the Black Lives Matter rally, where The Womxn Project and the Democratic Women’s Caucus displayed multiple sayings on the front of the State House, including “WHITE PEOPLE – DO SOMETHING.” Additionally, the artivists were seen at House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office in Cranston, where the words “WHITE SILENCE – VIOLENCE” and “PRIVILEGE IS POWER, USE YOURS TO END RACISM,” were projected onto the outer walls of his office building after the speaker claimed on the radio that he was unsure if slavery existed in Rhode Island. The Womxn Project also projected a record of slaves from Rhode Island onto the wall. This summer had Daria-Lyric Montaquila reading Langston Hughes’ “Let America be America Again” at Linden Place Mansion in Bristol, and Tammy Brown reading “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” on July 4 at DeWolf Tavern in Bristol. Videos of these performances are on The Womxn Project’s website, and I suggest you watch them.
Where does the art come from? Beth had this to say: “We started with one projector and a generator, and we are now upping our game by adding more teams and projectors so we can have a bigger impact throughout the state. Depending on the event, we mostly create our own imagery unless we are there to support another organization, like we did for the Dyke and Trans POC March and Vigil. We were there to amplify their voice and message, as allies.”
There are additional installations planned for the summer (and hopefully beyond) through The Womxn Project. Your voice matters, and The Womxn Project is making sure the needs of the community (and country) are being heard.
To get involved, follow them on Instagram (@thewomxnprojecthq) or Facebook (Facebook.com/TheWomxnProjectHQ) or reach out to them via their website. Please note that the projections and artivism activities are typically not posted about in advance, get in touch if you want to help.