Katie Josway had no shortage of things on her plate this summer. She was finishing school, studying for (and eventually passing) the licensing exam to become a massage therapist and recording two albums with two different bands whilst preparing two new band members for shows.
In the midst of all of this, she decided to try and bring all of the women involved in the Indianapolis arts scene together for a project called Women of Indianapolis Arts.
Josway says her main goal initially was simply to encourage other women to form the kind of friendships she had been so grateful for, and also to see what kind of work other women were creating in our scene.
"Being treated differently as an artist because you're a women was something we all had in common," she says. "I needed to try and understand the scope of this phenomenon and whether or not it persisted across all artistic disciplines."
In August, Josway formed Women of Indianapolis Arts (WOIA), a community that started as an idea for a group photo of women artists in Indianapolis. "Everything just snowballed," Josway said. "I realized I had met so many women artists of all disciplines and backgrounds, really incredible people. It became such a large group of people that I could really connect with and I wanted a group photo. A historical women in art photo that would show the wide network of women who collectively have a unique quality in what they do. The photo then turned into an idea for a giant showcase and a website that will show photos and link to the artists' work and provide a place to organize and continue creative discussion."
Josway worked with the Indiana Historical Society in organizing a donation of the group photo for inclusion in the IHS' archives.
"The arts are the voice of a generation and define the people in it," Josway says. "When women are left out, we're only seeing a fraction of the truth and missing an important perspective. That is concerning, and people should care."
The BBC noted in 2012 that fewer than 5 percent of record producers and sound engineers are women. On the 2015 Billboard Power 100 list, only 15 of the 127 music execs included were women — and none were in the top 10.
"We want to engage men in the conversation too," Josway says. "We wanted them to also know how important they are to our scene and show how rare and inclusive it really is. There isn't a lot of 'boys club' stuff going on in the Indy art and music scene. I have always been treated as an equal by the men in our scene and I feel included and supported here."
On October 8, WOIA will host Alice Through the Looking Glass Ceiling at the Grove Haus. The event will feature women-identifying artists and vendors of all disciplines and genres. All ages are welcome; the group did not want to exclude younger artists or artists who are mothers from participating in the event and being able to show their work.
A requested donation of $7 will help fund future events and pay for the website supporting the women artists of Indianapolis.
Josway notes that many people came together to make Saturday's event happen in a big way in a short time. Emily Kelm is creating the WOIA website and Carrie Ortwein at Grove Haus volunteered the space. Cathy Hurt from Girls Rock Indianapolis and Sara Boutwell from Regeneration Indy will speak. Josway herself will be speaking about the group and its story; Lola Lavacious will speak about feminism and burlesque, with a short performance to follow. There will be a kids' art area and seven bands performing at the event, including There Are Ghosts, Gypsy Moonshine, Eliot Bigger, Hex Mundi, Mina & The Wonderous Flying Machine, Sheeza and Like Smoke. Tatiana Rebelle will perform spoken word.
Stephanie Renner, the drummer for the band Hex Mundi, will be performing at the showcase.
Renner is an artist with a space at Pattern Workshop on Mass Avenue, where she works on an apparel line called Sele Apparel (pronounced SEAL), and does custom design work and printing as well.
"In the last month, I have been getting back into my roots of relief printmaking," Renner says. "My work tends to deal with origins of life, esoteric imagery, symbols and natural patterns/phenomena. I actually just finished designing album artwork for Katie Josway's band, Gypsy Moonshine. They are going to be releasing that soon."
Pamela O'Brien is originally from New Orleans and only recently became involved in the local art scene. O'Brien feels that being involved in WOIA and the planning of the event has been a rewarding thing for her.
"I've lived in Indy for nine years," O'Brien says. "I moved here from New Orleans two years after Katrina. I've been involved with the local arts scene only this past year, and have found it exciting and very encouraging. My art is best described as impressionist/abstract. I became involved in the arts scene in February of this year when a friend who was the project manager of the Before I Die Festival encouraged me to submit my Katrina trilogy to the Stutz Artists Association for their exhibit Can We Talk? It was the first time I had ever submitted any of my art for public exhibition, and I was, of course, a little nervous. Would people like it? Would they see anything in my work, and perhaps more importantly, would they gain any understanding of the Katrina experience that people from New Orleans had? I was thrilled to find that they did, and I got a lot of encouragement to keep painting."
Although her work will not be featured at the event at Grove Haus this time, O'Brien has been involved in the planning of the event and believes that her work will be featured in the next event, which has yet to be planned.
When asked what she wanted people to take away from this event Josway said, "I want them to leave knowing how many talented women there are in Indianapolis. That in itself indirectly addresses the gender inequality issue.
"We want to plant a seed so people start thinking and questioning their instincts on how they perceive certain art. Would you feel differently if a man created this song, or this painting, or delivered this spoken word? How we value and draw conclusions; that is the only way things will ever change."