Since 2015, Milwaukee’s Riverwest FemFest has become a popular and important festival within the city’s creative community, one that supports artists and musicians across multiple venues through concerts, performances, exhibitions, and workshops. As a platform for femme, gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans, POC, and womyn creators, FemFest acts as a fundraiser for various non-profits and donates all proceeds from the week-long event to local organizations that support womyn, LGBTQIA+ individuals, families, and marginalized groups in the city.
…Beyond the many local bands, singers, and performers that take part in the festival, FemFest provides an opportunity for emerging and established artists to exhibit work at gallery spaces around the city. Ranging from DIY and artist-run spaces to live-work spaces and established galleries, eight venues showed over 20 artists’ works this year. Gluon Gallery, Yours Truly, Terry McCormick Contemporary Fine and Folk Art Gallery, The Real Tinsel, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, Facilitating Situations, Genesis, and Leenhouts Gallery were among the participating spaces. FemFest increases with momentum each year and the range and diversity of the artwork presented over the weekend did not disappoint.
…Fibers, sculptures, and paintings from Ella Anderson, Nicole Naudi, Malia Spellman, and FemFest Gallery Day organizer Melissa K. Mursch were on view at Real Tinsel, a storefront space on the Historic Mitchell Street. Made up of neutral blocks of color that resemble skin tones, Mursch’s fabric painting was embroidered with the phrase, “can i guess your nationality?” An artist and poet, Mursch’s work shares her identities and vulnerabilities in hopes to create deeper understanding and accessibility of topics like race and intimacy.
…Leenhouts Gallery on Milwaukee’s east side also exhibited work that focused on race and identity. The gallery showcased work from local artist collective LUNA (Latinas Unidas En Las Artes), a group that empowers and supports LatinX artists in the Milwaukee community. LUNA also hosted artist workshops the previous week led by members of the collective. Making a splash in the community by organizing engaging and thoughtful programming, members of LUNA are making sure their work is seen and voices are heard. Co-Founder Katie Avila Loughmiller recently published an article addressing white gallery owners and racial inclusion in the Milwaukee art scene.
…Riverwest FemFest is an important platform in the Milwaukee community for underrepresented artists and makers. For some artists, it may be the first time they get to experience their work in a gallery setting. For others, it may be an opportunity to welcome visitors into their home studio/gallery space. For all taking part, FemFest acts as a reminder that Milwaukee has an incredible network of diverse and noteworthy femme, womyn, non-binary, gender non-conforming, trans, and POC artists who have earned the community’s recognition as important cultural producers.