FRESNO, Calif. — A local group of women have been working to bring Fresno its first cultural celebration honoring women. Slated for spring, the organizers say the Women’s Art and Music Festival (WAMF) will also help raise awareness of gender-based issues.
Stephanie Canales is the inspiration behind WAMF. She announced the idea for the festival at a monthly community women’s meeting known as Women’s Night. Many of the Women’s Night attendees began meeting weekly in the city’s Tower District to begin laying the groundwork for the festival.
Canales says her motivation for launching WAMF came from working for Rape Counseling Services (RCS) Fresno as a counselor for survivors and as a graduate student in the Women’s Studies program at Fresno State. “Sexual assault is a tool to control and oppress people’s lives, and I feel we as a society can do something to change it,” says Canales.
Since their first meeting on January 22, plans for the festival have come a long way.
As many as 50 female-led bands, including locals Fatty Cakes and the Puff Pastries, Sci-Fi Caper, Kooleidoscope and Ghost Meat have already been booked, along with a handful of artists who will be displaying their work at the venue, Arte Americas.
Women involved in the planning say they were especially interested in being a part of a big project like this because seeing women do inspirational things together inspires them to be more involved in the community.
“I envision the festival to be an open gathering with something for everyone,” says Amber Williams, who is on the planning committee, “from the visual art pieces that will be displayed and performance art, ranging from punk to hip-hop and spoken word.” Williams says WAMF will also being a place for attendees to access information and resources.
WAMF organizers say the goal is to celebrate female talent in Fresno and to shed light on the issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse. May is domestic violence awareness month.
“As a woman and an artist, I feel WAMF creates a safe space to express myself. Often times in the music and art world women’s voices are diminished and practically ignored, and that can affect our confidence and our work in male dominated spaces,” says Williams. “Creating this festival gives me and other women the opportunity to create without doubting our talents.”
According to data from the United Nations Population Fund, one in three women worldwide will experience a form of physical or sexual violence in their lives. In Fresno alone, more than 6,000 cases of domestic violence have been reported since 2012.
The Women’s Art and Music Festival of Fresno is scheduled for May 6 from 5:00 to 10:00 pm at Tower Theatre. General admission is $10, $5 for students and free for children. For more information on the event, go to the event page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @womensartandmusic, and be sure to hashtag #WAMFF16 for promotions and exclusive details.