If you’re familiar with MKE, then you know that festival season has arrived! Art, music, community, culture and everything in between become large festivities that activate the city with an aura that feeds off of creativity and cultivates all streams of Urban life.
This years festival season has started off with movement pulsing right from the cities east side with Riverwest FemFest 2018 (which was held May 27th - June 3rd). As stated on their website:
“Riverwest FemFest is a community music and arts festival celebrating the powerful and positive impact we can have on each other and the community around us. Founded in 2015, we celebrate the empowerment that comes with surrounding yourself with people who push you to push yourself. We celebrate through music, visual arts, poetry, and comedy. We not only celebrate the feminine impact within our own community, we aim to celebrate, empower, and provide platforms for those who have been historically left out of creative spaces.”
When our team at CopyWrite heard how this year’s festival would be pushing and empowering some of our favorite feminine creatives, we had to reach out and make sure that Riverwest FemFest knew that as the only female owned and operated Urban creative media press outlet in the city, we are here for it! To share these amazing moments with our audience, #SupportTheLocal, and help cultivate the narrative of feminine creativity is something we just could not pass up.
To get a bit more insight on what Riverwest FemFest is all about, we sat down with two of the festival coordinators, Olivia Doyle (the original founder of Riverwest FemFest) and Ellie Jackson.
Olivia: “I started it because I was just really inspired by all the women musicians around me. They were not just only musicians but some were getting their masters, or becoming professors. They were just doing everything. So I originally wanted to have a show to celebrate them and it turned into a two-day show and a fundraiser. We got a lot of press from that and it just exploded.”
Olivia admits that her original idea was to have the first showcase in her basement but a few of her roommates convinced her that it had the potential to be much bigger than that…and they were right.
Riverwest FemFest has surpassed not only its original thought but even has grown from its two-day expansion show at the late Cocoon Room, to a week-long festival of creative feminine genius.
CW: “What kind of effort does it take to organize something like this? You have so many components to it, like the gallery walk and all the different performances. How does something like that come together?
Olivia: “It takes months.”
Ellie: “Probably like 8 months, out of the year.”
Olivia: “So there are central organizers, then there are other subgroups of organizers that are organizing all those other events. Like the gallery walk today, or there was a film portion that was curated by Naomi Shersty and Grace Mitchell...So it takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of human power.”
Ellie: “And we are all volunteers!”
The initiative that these volunteers have shown, further reveals how important the community efforts to support local creativity can have on all of us, making Riverwest FemFest a must in MKE.
When asked for the best way to describe the festival to those of our readers that have never attended, Ellie urged that it is a community of people who support feminine identifying art in every form. In addition to this support all the proceeds are donated to organizations in Milwaukee that assist in the help/protection of women and families. This year’s recipients include great causes like Courage MKE, Casa Maria, and The Milwaukee Women’s Center.
The celebration of feminine empowerment had several highlights including the locally curated film shorts showcase at Microlights Microcinema (832 E Chambers St, Milwaukee, WI 53212), the Riverwest FemFest Gallery Walk, which included pop-up shows at five venues: The Ski Club (3172 N Bremen St, Milwaukee, WI 53212), The Yellow Wallpaper Project (1126 E Wright Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212), The Jazz Gallery (926 E Center St, Milwaukee, WI 53212), Yours Truly (833 E Center St, Milwaukee, WI 53212) and The Lunchbox @ AfterSchool Special (731 E Center St, Milwaukee, WI 53212). Unlike in past years, these sections of programming were given their own shine, where usually they would be transpiring at the same time as the more active music sets that Riverwest FemFest also offers.
Ellie: “I feel like Milwaukee does a really good job of supporting musicians [like venue performance availability i.e. bars] but there aren’t as many ways for people to see poets, or go to galleries that don’t feel elitist.” (Can we repeat that? That DON’T feel ELITIST!!!)
Other happenings included Riverwest Spoken Word Night at Rise & Grind Cafe #2 (2737 N Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212), which our sources tell us was to die for, the Keg Stand Up at Lakefront Brewery (1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212) and the Makers Market at Company Brewing (735 E Center St, Milwaukee, WI 53212), that featured several local artists, crafters, and businesses. Company Brewing also is the host for the large weekend music sets for Riverwest FemFest, where one of the only local female brewers makes them a special beer for the occasion.
One interesting piece of information that fell under most of our radars are the workshops that occurred through the week that also promoted feminine empowerment and self-actualizing. “The Revolution Will Not Be Processed: A Vegan Femfest Workshop” being one of them. (Who attended? Give us all the ‘deets! Eco-Feminism for the win!)
As stated above Riverwest FemFest had much to offer, but our /CW team unanimously agreed that our favorite moments were the ones that seemed natural, where we could experience our favorite local “feminine” musicians, catch displays of witty art, and could see the efforts of the process throughout the festival and its participants.
Moments we loved:
• The Gallery Walk: We have been saying that Milwaukee is a hotbed for visual talent, but we don’t get to see it enough. This gallery walk gave us the opportunities to check out some new names, concepts, and spaces. We had never been to Yours Truly (833 E Center St, Milwaukee, WI 53212) and were quite flattered by a “Press for Progress” illustration of a female journalist hanging on their wall (Who is the artist? You deserve a shout out!). Also, artist, Lacey Prpić Hedtke project, “Spells For…” displayed at the Lunchbox @ AfterSchool Special was simply enthralling. We made sure to snag a spell for keeping our $ in our community, while we were there. We also learned that Corn Flakes may be a cure for masturbation at The Ski Club...(PAUSE). So yeah, art is life.
• SistaStrings at The Back Room @ Colectivo was brilliant. The duo’s uncensored sisterly chemistry is absolutely refreshing. Their artistry with string instruments is very unique in our community and their mastery of craft, storytelling and stage presence during their Riverwest FemFest set showed that they are creatives with that “it” factor, and authenticity. Their performance of “Ave Maria” and “Deep River” crossover, absolutely did it for us! Worrrrrrrkkkk!
• Ms. Lotus Fankh’s set at Club Timbuktu was intimate in all the right ways. Her voice buzzed over the room, her “impromptu” production as always added depth to her lyrics, and her style of blues-infused, r&b, folk, jazz, mashup just made us smile. She also made sure to end her set on a positive note, which is what this world needs; positive energy in all things.
We believe that Riverwest FemFest 2018 has set the tone for this year’s festival season in MKE. It is inspiring, it is cultivating, and it is communal, which are all things that this city really should celebrate.
CW: “Where do you expect it to go from here? Is there anything that you want to grow more as this progresses?”
Ellie: “I have been using the word: movement. I would like to see it become at least a Milwaukee movement because every year it becomes harder and harder to fit everybody we want to see in Riverwest and in one week. Eventually, we would like it to become a city-wide expansion.”
Well, we are down for the movement and we are down for the cause. Make sure you become apart of the Riverwest FemFest movement by following them @rwfemfest and getting involved by visiting their website at www.rwfemfest.com/getinvolved
Empower the feminine.
Empower the community.