Call for Artists — Plaza Art Fair Opportunity with UMKC Her Art Project

Calling all Kansas City area female artists!  The UMKC Women’s Center, Conservatory of Music and Dance – Community Music and Dance Academy, and the Toy and Miniature Museum are teaming up to host the Her Art Project booth at the upcoming Plaza Art Fair, Sept. 21 – 23, on the Country Club Plaza. We are looking for four KC area artists (visual artists, musicians, dancers, poets, etc…) to be featured artists at different times during the Art Fair. Featured artists will not be able to sell any artwork; however, you will be able to display samples of your work and distribute promotional materials to thousands of art fair visitors. You will also have the opportunity to give a brief presentation about your art and to facilitate a family-friendly, hands-on activity.

To be considered for one of the Featured Artist positions, please submit proposals to Arzie Umali at the UMKC Women’s Center, by 5:00pm on Wednesday, Aug. 15. 

For more information, please contact Arzie Umali at 816-235-5577 or .

The Her Art Project booth at the Plaza Art Fair is also made possible through the support of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City and the Experience ArtsKC Program.

Concert Features Women Composers at UMKC

By Arzie Umali
Next week the Women’s Center’s Her Art Project will be co-sponsoring a concert featuring some very talented women composers at UMKC. In collaboration with the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, the UMKC Women Composers concert will be part of the Musica Aestas  concert series, June 16 – 22. Now in its third year, this concert series features innovative programming by guest performers, as well as faculty from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. The Women Composers concert will be Wednesday, June 20 at 7:30 p.m. at White Recital Hall in the UMKC Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry St. Featured composers and performers will be:

Mara Gibson

Mara Gibson: E: Tip for cello solo, played by Sascha Groschang featuring video collaboration by Caitlin Horsmon
Tatev Amiryan: piano solo work, played by Tatev Amiryan
Asha Srinivasan: Dviraag for flute and cello, played by Grace Lai and Sascha Groschang
Asha Srinivasan: Alone, Dancing for flute solo, played by Grace Lai
Chen Yi: Duo Ye for piano solo, played by Tatev Amiryan
Chen Yi: Romance and Dance for violin and piano, played by Amy Hu and Tatev Amiryan
Chen Yi

The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance Community Music and Dance Academy website. 

The Her Art Project is a program of the UMKC Women’s Center that strives to support the achievements of local women artists of all disciplines and to advance the equity of all women in the arts in Kansas City. For more information, please visit the Her Art Project website.

Art, Hors d’œuvres, and Community

By Sarah Jensen

This third year of partnering with the Her Art Project to do a group art exhibit was a fantastic success! Last Thursday, March 1st, the turnout from the Kansas City and UMKC communities to celebrate the artistic talent on display at the “Vanguards and Visionaries” Opening Reception at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center surpassed expectations. It was also a night honoring the past leadership of the UMKC Women’s Center. Dean Peter Witte gave a warm welcome on behalf of UMKC and introduced Jolie Justice.  Special guest Jolie Justice, of the Missouri State Senate, spoke in recognition of the Women’s Center’s 40 years, hoping to celebrate many more years to come. Largely it was a wonderful evening. We look forward to up and coming events at the Women’s Center, including but not limited to the 40th Anniversary Gala, click here for more details! When asked about the general reaction to the reception, Women’s Center Assistant Director Arzie Umali replied: “I think it was positive; but it always gets a positive response”. She also shared her own thoughts on this collaborative event; “This was a great reception. Many of the artists are quite established, so it was obvious that their patrons were there that night. It’s always good to have new audiences attend our events. I liked having the exhibit parallel the 40th anniversary celebration of the Women’s Center, because I don’t think this type of recognition for women in the arts in Kansas City has ever been done before. Everyone seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves in addition to learning something about the Women’s Center, our forty year history, and what we are doing with the Her Art Project to support women in the arts”.

 The UMKC Women’s Center would like to give a hearty thanks to the sponsors who made this event possible! Annedore’s Fine Chocolates, Boulevard Brewing Co., Hoop Dog Studio, Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, Kenny Johnson Photography, M & M Graphics, Moxie Catering, Office Port KC, Print Time The Roasterie, A Store Named Stuff, UMKC, UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, and World’s Window

New Year’s Resolution: We should all be as vocal…


by Arzie Umali

Happy New Year! It’s that time again when many of us are making our New Year’s resolutions. If you haven’t made your resolution yet, or you’ve decided not to make any resolutions this year, let me suggest one for you: Let’s all resolve to put our passion for women’s equity into action this year. During a time when so much is happening in this country with the unsteady economy, the presidential race, and our own busy and hectic lives, it’s easy to leave the advocacy work to some else. But as the little girl in the video shows, you’re never too young to get on your soap box and speak up about women’s equity!


Women’s Equity Quilt Project

Students working on their quilt squares.

This post originally appeared on the blog Quilts and Health, which is part of a quilt project of the same name that was started by the Michigan State University Museum and the MSU College of Human Medicine. Written by Beth Donaldson, who works as a Collections Assistant at the MSU Museum in East Lansing, MI.

Nedra Bonds, textile artist, and Arzie Umali, Assistant Director, UMKC Women’s Center, are in the process of cataloging over 100 quilt squares and their stories. They are preparing for the Opening Reception of the Women’s Equity Quilt Project display  (February 2 – April 13, 2012) at the Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri-Kansas City. The Women’s Equity Quilt is a community project to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the UMKC Women’s Center. Bonds led quilt workshops in the spring and summer of 2011  where students and community members got the opportunity to express their feelings on women’s issues by making a quilt square. Skill levels ranged from first time stitchers to advanced quilt makers. Each participant was encouraged to make 2 squares, one for the Women’s Center and one to keep themselves. Every quilt square represented its own unique story.

For more information on the equity quilt go here.

2011 Starr Symposium… Will “Survive!”


By Arzie Umali 

Yesterday, the UMKC Women’s Center and Women’s Council hosted the Starr Symposium, an all day event featuring two keynote speakers – Gloria Steinem and Dolores Huerta – workshops to empower women, and entertainment by the Wild Women of Kansas City. There were several highlights during the day that focused on the theme “Age Becomes Us: Leading, Empowering and Building Capacity across the Generations,”  but one of the most exciting moments was the spontaneous dance party that happened during lunch when Millie Nottingham, of the Wild Women, performed an electrifying rendition of “I Will Survive.” Check out the video to see Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, and women from all over Kansas City get swept in by the music.

20th Annual Women of Color Networking Soul Food Dinner

By Arzie Umali

Image from Flickr

Networking and soul food – does it get any better?  This weekend, on Sunday, November 6, from 2 – 5 pm, a group of Kansas City area women (including the UMKC Chancellor’s wife, Yvette Morton), will be hosting their 20th Annual Soul Food Dinner at Prairie Star Middle School, 14201 Mission Road in Leawood, Kansas.  For the past 20 years, this group has been gathering women of color from across the Kansas City metro area to enjoy great soul food while networking and finding out about businesses owned by women of color, community happenings, and relevant issues and topics for women of color.

In honor of their 20th Anniversary, the group is looking for 100 women of color to attend the dinner and bring a “written prayer” regardless of religion or creed.  These prayers can contain any request for family, country, health, jobs, education, community, prosperity, neighbors, neighborhoods, safety, or anything else that affects the quality of life that everyone should be living. The prayers will be placed in a prayer chest with hopes that they will be answered.

Everyone is invited to attend this event to meet new friends and to learn about, and support, the endeavors of Kansas City’s women of color. Admission is $5 and the group asks that you also bring your favorite soul food dish to share.  You are also encouraged to bring your business cards, fliers, and brochures. For more information contact Yvette Morton at

Who Does She Think She Is?

"Following Chicken George," by Nedra Bonds

By Arzie Umali

Last night about 150 people gathered at the Event Space at JavaPort in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District for a private opening of the group art exhibit Who Does She Think She Is?  Artists, patrons, supporters and friends of the UMKC Women’s Center enjoyed live music by local musician Elaine McMillian, spoken word performances by Cheri Woods and “MissConception” and dance performances by the group Assemblé.  They also got a sneak preview of the exhibit that officially opens tonight for First Fridays and features artwork by 26 local female artists.

The exhibit is part of the UMKC Women’s Center’s Her Art Project, a series of programs that strive to bring equity to women who work in all disciplines of artistic expression. By asking the question Who Does She Think She Is? the art exhibit hopes to recognize women for their artistic achievements and to  raise awareness to the unique challenges that women face as they try to meet the demands of family, careers, and artistic fulfillment.  Other Her Art Project events taking place in the month of April include a panel discussion about balancing work and life with creative careers at the KC Public Library on April 12 and an Artist Salon addressing the state of women in the arts in Kansas City on April 27.  More information about these programs and the Her Art Project can be found on the Her Art Project Website

Please support Kansas City’s women artists by stopping by the First Friday opening tonight at the Event Space at JavaPort, 208 W. 19th St. from 6 – 9 pm. If you can’t make it tonight, the exhibit will be up through May 13 with another First Friday opening on May 6.

Shame on You, Abercrombie & Fitch (Again)!

By Arzie Umali

[youtube][/youtube]Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has done it again. Known for controversies such as their risqué print advertisements with half-naked people and accusations of discriminatory hiring, now the retailer is selling padded, push-up bikini tops for girls as young as 8-years-old. In a story on Good Morning America, parents expressed their outrage over the over-sexualized message that selling such a garment to our young girls will bring. 

As a parent of a tween daughter, I am faced with the power struggles everyday with her trying to be more grown up than her age (or I) will allow her to be.  Young girls are already bombarded with images in the media of ideal beauty and the idea that sexing yourself up makes you more appealing.  Usually these images come from adult women in magazines or music videos that our young girls wrongly aspire to be. But now, Abercrombie is giving them the opportunity to sex it up right away at the age of 8 by wearing a bikini top that will give them a fuller figure than any 8-year-old would ever realisticly have.  That’s appalling! (And actually, we shouldn’t be surprised – they were also the retailer who, not too long ago, came out with a line of thong underwear in children’s sizes.)

So shame on you Abercrombie & Fitch, for, once again, perpetuating the myth to our young girls that their bodies are what’s important about them and for making it even more difficult for parents to convince their daughters that  big breasts DO NOT triumph over brains. You’ve also just given every creepy pedophile more reason to hang out at our neighborhood swimming pools and beaches this summer.

Women Are Great and Wise Artists, Too

By Arzie Umali

Image from

Happy New Year!  We are almost one full week into 2011 and many people by now have firmly secured their resolutions and goals for the New Year. In fact, some may have already thrown in the towel and realized they had set their sights too high. Whatever we do at this time of year, whether it is strategically listing a set of goals complete with deadlines and measureable outcomes, or just continuing with our current Modus Operandi, many of us do take this time at the start of a brand new year to do some reflection and evaluation; and, most often, we do this with our best intentions at heart.

So, I’m wondering what the intensions were of a recent Wall Street Journal article that listed the “Cultural Resolutions” of some of whom they claimed to be the top writers, artists, and musicians of today.  The article included a sampling of artists from around the world sharing their hopes and goals for the New Year. What first appears to be a rather arbitrary selection of individuals (from Oprah to former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash) to me, also appears to be an extremely sexist list of who the WSJ considers to be the wisest of the cultural icons of today. In the print version of the article, a full-page layout for the article on the cover of the “Friday Journal” section lists quotes from 10 creative individuals – only one, fashion designer, Nanette Lepore, is female. The article covers two more full pages with resolutions and goals of various artists. 37 people are included in total, of which only 9 are women. The on-line version of the article is slightly different and includes a large image of architect, Richard Meier, whose goal is to design more global works. If Meier’s image at the top of this article is any indication of how the WSJ regards the greatness of artists, then they have shown their readers that great art and wisdom comes from men. The rest of the article on-line lists 55 other artists in various disciplines, of which only 11 are women.

The problem with this article, aside from its haphazard mix of artists, is that the message it sends to readers is that men still outnumber women in the arts; therefore, men are more important and are still better at it. Articles like this that quote the wisdom of individuals selected by reputable media sources, assign values that then inform its audiences’ interpretation and perspective on the arts as well. If the WSJ says that these are the top artists, then they must be. And because men dominate this list, then they just must be better. This is not true. And I am disappointed in the WSJ for not being more responsible and doing their due diligence to provide a more gender balanced article.

Women have had a long history of being devalued and excluded from the arts. Shakespeare’s female roles were once performed by men, many art academies in Europe did not allow women, and many symphonies and orchestras have been hostile to female musicians.  Women historically, have had to struggle to be seen, heard, and recognized as legitimate artists. The good news is that, in recent decades, the number of women working in the arts has increased and in many fields women have reached equity in numbers, if not surpassed their male counterparts. Reports from the National Endowment for the Arts confirm this. However, how we as a society value the art produced by these women is still based on the masculine definitions of art established in the past. This becomes a challenge for women emerging onto the arts scene who have their own style and aesthetics, that are different from men, but just as valuable. The problem here is that, most of the time, we act on the impulse that anything different from what we have been conditioned to understand as the best, then is not the best, and we, thus, reject it.

It is time that society release the definition of great art, great music, and great performances from its sexist, homogeneity and recognize the value and richness that adding some gender diversity to these definitions can bring. The media, including the WSJ, then has a responsibility to stop perpetuate the myth of male domination in the arts and to help raise the awareness of its audience to the gender diversity that actually exists in the arts. Brilliant, creative, and innovative women are out there in the art world in numbers and greatness equal to men, but if the media doesn’t let you know who they are, then who will?

The Her Art Project at the UMKC Women’s Center is addressing this problem head on, by collaborating across campus and throughout the Kansas City area with other arts organizations to create programs and services that raise awareness to the contributions of women in the arts and to address the challenges that women working in the arts still face. This spring several events including workshops, lectures and exhibits are planned to support women in the arts in Kansas City.  Visit the Her Art Project website for more information.