Q&A with LiveGirl’s Sheri West: ‘The Art of Being a Girl’

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New Canaan-based nonprofit organization LiveGirl on Thursday is launching a new exhibit at the Carriage Barn Arts Center. 

“Audrey Hepburn” by Ashley Longshore

Featuring work from New Orleans-based mixed media artist Ashley Longshore and award-winning artist Michele Voigt, “The Art of Being a Girl” will include work in all media that expresses what organizers call “the essence of female power.”

The exhibit will run through May 26 and features two community events—on May 19, LiveGirl is hosting a benefit with music by Sariah and Hope In Harmony, spoken word by bestselling poet Cheyenne Taylor Jacobs and Voigt completing a piece.

Then on May 23, LiveGirl and CWEALF will present “Enough As She Is” with Rachel Simmons, the New York Times bestselling author of “Enough As She Is,” “Odd Girl Out” and “The Curse of the Good Girl.” 

We put some questions to LiveGirl Founder Sheri West about the exhibit and her organization. Here’s our exchange:

New Canaanite: Give me an idea now of how many girls now benefit from your organization’s programs, including Camp LiveGirl. 

“Flying Girls” by Michele Voigt

Sheri West: This year, we will serve 1,500 middle and high school girls in our free of charge programs statewide. Additionally, we will welcome 150 girls at Camp LiveGirl—to run July 22 to 26 at New Canaan High School—including 60 girls on full scholarship.

How will funds raised through “The Art of Being a Girl” support those programs?

One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit our free of charge after school programs and summer camp scholarships. “The Art of Being A Girl” art collection celebrates the essence of female power and features over 100 works by 58 artists, including Ashley Longshore, Michele U. Voigt and Teo Guererra. All artwork is for sale with 25% of proceeds to benefit LiveGirl, a nonprofit organization that builds confident leaders.

You’re obviously approaching LiveGirl’s mission of empowerment from different angles. Let’s talk about art. How was this art-focused initiative was conceived?

There is no one right way to be a girl or to empower a girl. At LiveGirl, we are all about equipping girls with the skills, community, and connections to thrive. For some, this may mean building self-esteem through one of our after school mentoring groups. For others, it may be learning more about the women who came before them by writing a poem for our women’s history month contest. Others might discover what’s possible for girls and women by meeting a fierce female role model or viewing art. Enter our art-focused initiative. The title of this year’s art exhibit came from an original poem written by Lytasha Blackwell, one of our mentors. The poem expresses that there is no one right way to be a girl. Girls don’t need to fit in a box or conform to preconceived gender norms. A few lines from the poem:

Girls inspire, Girls love, Girls live, Girls lead
Girls have the full potential to always succeed
Girls come in so many different styles
Mastering the art of being a girl definitely takes a while 

What role do art and artistic expression play in female empowerment, in your view?

Very often, words are not enough for expressing our thoughts and feelings. Art and artistic expression play an important role in female empowerment. Some people are enthusiastic about the feminist movement and our efforts to close the female leadership gap. Others don’t understand it or find it necessary. “The Art of Being a Girl” and the artists—including Ashley Longshore and Michele U. Voigt—are contributing a very important voice to the cause.

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