Women’s bodies, through women’s eyes.
Women’s lives, in women’s voices.
That’s what the eight speakers in the Reclamation talk series will focus on — women’s experiences, in a world often viewed through a man’s lens.
The talks accompany a several-month-long exhibit at Helen Day Art Center called “Reclamation.”
The eight speakers were brought together in a collaboration between the Helen Day and the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.
The art exhibit, which runs through Sept. 8, showcases women painting women, including pieces from female artists all around the world, works that cast the female body in roles other than decorative or tempting.
The exhibit also touches on the intersection of gender and race, portraying women such as the mother of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black boy shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida in 2012.
The art is the visual component of Reclamation. Women are given voice Saturday, Aug. 4, as eight female influencers from around the country give TED-style talks at the Spruce Peak Arts Center.
The Reclamation talks will focus on women’s roles in male-dominated workplaces, in communities and in society as a whole.
“Being a woman, being the leader of an organization and living in this time, it’s an amazing time and it’s a unique time,” said Hope Sullivan, executive director of Spruce Peak, nodding to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which burst into the fore this year after decades of roiling tension about workplace and everyday sexual harassment and assault.
She said the first time she walked through the Reclamation exhibit, it felt intimately familiar to her own experiences.
Sullivan took her daughter, 8, to the exhibit, and said that introduction to art and feminism gave her a new way to be “art smart.”
“Teaching a girl about the world (is) thought-provoking,” Sullivan said. “There are pieces that I thought were gorgeous. There are pieces I thought made me curious, that made me wonder, and there were ones that made me question and think about things a little more deeply, which I think is all you can ask from many types of art shows.”
• August Burns is an award-winning portrait and figurative painter who seeks to capture the …
Lisa Hagerty owns Well Heeled, a Stowe women’s boutique, and is a member of the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center board of directors.
She’s also politically involved, a member of the Stowe Select Board and a Democratic Party activist.
When August Burns and Rachel Moore, co-curators of the Reclamation exhibit, approached her to help raise money, Hagerty had an idea, inspired by Tessa Rawson, who brought TEDxStowe to the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.
What about a series of talks to drive home the exhibit’s point?
“I really see something great here for Stowe,” Hagerty said.
Sullivan loved the idea — its timeliness especially appealed to her.
“We’re having this amazing conversation about equity, while at the same time we have leadership in place which is dissonant to that conversation,” Sullivan said. “I also find the visual arts resonates for me personally, as well. I’m interested politically and personally and philosophically in what I will hear and what I will learn.”
Before becoming head of the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center earlier this year, Sullivan was executive director at a private art school in the Berkshires where visual arts were a big focus.
Each talk will run about 10 minutes, and time is reserved to connect with speakers afterward.
Hagerty said that, together, the exhibit and the talks have the power to elevate the local conversation on #MeToo and #TimesUp.
“Walking through that (exhibit) for me was like putting a warm blanket on,” Hagerty said. “It was like arriving into a country where they spoke my language. … The art spoke so clearly to women and the way” they experience the fight for success in a world seen through men’s lenses.
“I adore it,” Hagerty said. “I’m hoping our evening of speakers will evoke more discussion.”
From anger to presence
Hagerty, one of the eight speakers Aug. 4, has been sculpting her talk for months.
“It started angrier” than the finished version, she said.
Hagerty, who attended Harvard Business School, said she didn’t experience workplace harassment until she was 27, working as an investment banker. She loved that job, but left because of management’s “inability to take me seriously” when she raised the issue of workplace harassment.
“When you speak up, people don’t like you,” Hagerty said.
She looks forward to forging connections based on similar experiences with the other speakers and women in the audience, and said all women’s experiences are valuable, whether they’re corporate workers or stay-at-home moms.
“You don’t have to have a paid job to have a valuable opinion,” Hagerty said. “The more we can talk about things, the more opportunity we have to understand each other.”
She says men’s opinions are just as valuable, but their voices are louder, and it’s time for women to get a turn.
“We need balance,” Hagerty said.
She thinks most men are basically well-meaning, and if the cultural temperature made it easier for women to speak up when something felt wrong, “mostly, they’d stop.”
“I hope that mothers will bring daughters. I hope that they’ll bring sons,” she said.
Hagerty’s final draft of her talk is “much more in my present than in my past.”
“Where I went is where my passion is right now,” she said — helping women find their voices and speak, loudly.
“Your own personal lens, it’s like a fingerprint,” and every single one is valuable.
Other speakers include Nell Scovell, a TV and magazine writer and the author of “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”; Kiah Morris, the second black woman ever elected to the Vermont Legislature; and Dana Suchow, who gives parents and teachers the resources to recognize and help treat eating disorders in girls, sometimes catching them before they start.