15 Years in the Pond: How we became a Bevy of Swans

Prepared by Jan Lisa Huttner for NYWIFT’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

2002: Sparks ignited on the morning of June 2, 2002 when I read an article in the Sunday New York Times about the “Celluloid Ceiling.” The article, quoting statistics by Communications Professor Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University, compelled me to take action. I wrote a letter to the Times, they published it, & a new cause took root.

2003: At the request of AAUW-Illinois Program Vice President Linda Henning Cohen, I presented a workshop at the AAUW-Illinois Spring Convention. 42 people attended & as we watched A Jury of Her Peers together, the power of the film—combined with the subsequent Q&A with filmmaker Sally Heckel—resonated with all who were there that day. AAUW-Illinois branches began inviting me to come speak about the “Celluloid Ceiling” problem.

2004: At the summer planning meeting, President Kim Benziger and her new AAUW-Illinois Board asked me to provide updates for the Fall District Conferences, so this “project” needed a name. After weeks of brainstorming, everyone agreed: We were “Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now!” The statewide WITASWAN roll-out began on October 2nd.

2007: At my request, AAUW-Illinois invited Martha Richards (Founder & Executive Director of WomenArts aka The Fund for Women Artists) to speak at Spring Convention. Driving back to Chicago afterwards, Martha suggested broadening the WITASWAN mission to support all women artists in every medium. Needless to say, I agreed to Martha’s SWAN Day plan immediately.

2008: The first International SWAN Day was celebrated all around the world on Saturday, March 29. It was such a success that Martha & I agreed to make it an annual event (to be held on the last Saturday of every March). The AAUW-Illinois Board—calling itself our “incubator”—issued a proclamation recognizing me “for creativity & foresight,” & set us loose.

2009: Women artists began working with wide variety of grassroots organizers to plan local SWAN Day events. By 2011, WomenArts had provided infrastructure & collateral materials for over 700 International SWAN Day events all around! And the rest… as they say… is history.

2012: I moved from Chicago to Brooklyn, so here I am, celebrating in NYC with you today J

In the words of Martha Lauzen:

“If we change media messages, we change the world.”

© Jan Lisa Huttner (3/25/17) FF2 Media

All logo design by Melissa Wilks for WomenArts.

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