A Safe Haven for the Arts: Providence Encourages Feminist and LGBTQ+ Artists to Speak Up

by The Cowl Editor on September 14, 2017

Arts & Entertainment

The Rhode Island State House
Photo courtesy of mapio.net and ztmeg.com

by Alexis Jais ’18

A&E Staff

For those who have lived here for years, Providence has long been understood as one of the most eccentric cities in the United States and an often overlooked artistic capital, ideal for young creatives.

While there are over 20 museums and galleries to be toured across the city alone, Providence has more to offer than just museum exhibitions. The city takes pride in its music and theater venues that appeal to any music lover or theater buff’s tastes.

As a hub for everything young, liberal, and avant-garde, this city, unsurprisingly, has a remarkably significant queer population. According to The New York Times, Providence is considered a metropolitan areas with some of the highest rates of LGBTQ+ residents, ensuring a constantly buzzing and fruitful queer and women’s art scene.

The Providence Women’s Film Festival, held at The Cable Car Cinema, and the Womanimation Festival at AS220, showcase short films created by women of Providence. The Providence Queer Arts Festival hosts programming, art, and queer artists and activists in partnership with Gay Pride.

Poetry series and concerts like those held at AS220 feature renowned female poets baring their souls to empower other women.

Columbus Theatre and other venues around the city feature gender non-conforming artists like Felix Walworth of the band Told Slant and LOONE (an all trans and genderqueer four-piece). Fans, music lovers, and people of all backgrounds, ages, genders, and sexualities can come to events that empower and celebrate women and LGBTQ+ people vying for their creative spotlight.

A few popular events, like the Women’s Film and Queer Arts festivals, attract massive crowds and boast popularity in local media and news outlets.

Conversely, smaller and less-advertised shows like AS220’s feminist poetry reading, “I Just Have a Lot of Feelings,” and Told Slant’s solo show attract much more modest, but highly concentrated crowds. However small, these shows and ones like them did not, and rarely do, lack in urgency and zeal.

Felix Walworth of Told Slant performed on Aug. 21 at Columbus Theatre’s upstairs space, seemingly meant for smaller crowds.

Around 30 people showed for the set featuring gender non-conforming artists and bands, LOONE, FINE., Teenage Halloween, and Told Slant (solo). While some perform lightheartedly and others emotional, the music was unabashedly real and inventive.

Likewise, AS220’s show “I Just Have a Lot of Feelings” took place on Sept. 7 in the bar’s small, upstairs concert space, Psychic Readings, an apparently rarely-visited space also reserved for events assumed to attract small crowds.

Somewhere between 10 and 12 audience members showed up for the show, which included poetry from eight women and musical performances from three others.

National Poetry Slam finalist Madeline Maienza performed renowned poems from her time in competition, as well as some newer and more intimate poems. Poets communicated inspiring pieces about reclaiming their bodies and the processes of recognizing one’s role as a female poet.

In spite of the expected yet regrettably low turnout at these sorts of events, the female and queer communities seem to remain inspired by creatives who, against all odds, continue to do what they love against a complicated sociopolitical backdrop.