MAKE SOME NOISE
New Ottawa festival would celebrate female-identifying and gender-queer artists
When Nicole Titus moved to Ottawa from St. Catharines several years ago, the former stage manager looked for work in the arts. Her search, however, wasn’t easy.
“I knew no one,” says Titus, 26. “It was super intimidating coming to a new city and trying to find artists to collaborate and work with.”
She and a group of like-minded friends in Ottawa’s arts scene hope to make networking, creating and collaborating easier for themselves and their peers with a festival called the Uproar Arts Festival, which would present performances and works of all kinds by female-identifying and gender-queer artists. It would debut next year.
To that end, Uproar’s producers have begun creating buzz on social media, and on Saturday night they will hold a fundraiser filled with spoken-word performances, theatre, music and visual arts at Black Squirrel Books in Old Ottawa South.
“There’s a ton of great work happening in the city by female identifying and gender-queer artists ,” says Titus. Uproar, she says, intends to create “a space where that work can be celebrated, and where these artists can come together across disciplines.
“We’re interested in creating a kind of community ... that’s really at the heart of what we’re trying to do.”
Brenda Dunn is one of two visual artists whose work will be exhibited and up for sale at Saturday’s event. “I’m participating in Uproar because visibility matters. Uproar is run by women and focuses on showcasing female performers and that’s the kind of room I love to be in,” Dunn says.
She adds that in her profession, she often meets people who had pursued artistic work, only to give it up. “They went on to do more ‘practical’ things in large part because they did not see themselves represented and so couldn’t imagine being successful. I’d like to change that,” Dunn says.
The interdisciplinary nature of the festival also appeals to Dunn, who calls herself “a firm believer in finding people who do work you admire and joining them.”
On the program on Saturday night is a range of eclectic young performers. One is aspiring R’n’B/ pop singer-songwriter Summer El Sayed. Another is Ottawa theatrical performer Brittany Johnston, an Anishinaabe woman from Serpent River First Nation near Lake Huron. Johnston will present an excerpt from a work-in-progress about “what it means to be an Indigenous woman today,” Titus says.
Also performing is Rhube Knox, a queer spoken-word artist and sex worker who addresses love, trauma, mental illness and sex-work stigma. Knox took fourth place at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam and first in the Ottawa Womxn’s Slam, and will go to Dallas, Texas in March 2019 to compete at the Women of the World Poetry Slam.
Inspirational speaker Clary Chambers says she jumped at the opportunity to take part in Saturday’s fundraiser because she believes “there is a unique perspective and empowerment that comes from women supporting each other’s craft.”
Chambers says she traces her own entrepreneurial success “to the support, guidance and insight of fellow women. I’m grateful for the community of strong women I’ve been able to build up around me and can’t wait to be apart of such an important and impactful event.”
Other spoken-word artists are members of Tell ’Em Girl, a recently formed Ottawa-based collective of young female poets who stress empowerment.
Ottawa actor Kate Smith will host the fundraiser, and Sara Mannseichner, also known as DJ Mani Pedi, will provide music for dancing at the end of the night.
“I’ve chosen to take part because I would love to see more womenrun events and festivals in the city. I think it’s really important for these spaces to exist,” Mannseichner says. “Women, queer and trans folks are in a position where we don’t always feel safe attending events.”
Titus says that through the fundraiser and an online campaign, she and her colleagues hope to raise about $2,000 that would be used for costs such as venue rentals, hiring technicians and marketing.
“We’d like to make as big of a splash as possible in our first year, but the size of the festival will be contingent on how much funding we can source,” she says.
She hopes that the inaugural Uproar festival in 2019 will fill a weekend and showcase as many as 15 artists. “We’re also planning to run professional development and networking events throughout the year to help build that sense of
community and foster collaboration,” Titus adds.
Titus would love to see Uproar in the coming years grow and present artists from an even broader range of disciplines.
“We’ve had an amazing response from the community so far. We really want to make this as big and fun of an event as possible,” she says.