In March I went to Nashville for an event that my friend Carissa Stolting organized. Nashville International Women’s Day, held at OZ Arts, was centered around the theme “Be Bold for Change” and included workshops, panels, musical performance and poetry. The idea for this blog was born after witnessing women with differing religious and political ideologies have calm and intelligent discussions on how to solve social justice issues. At the event I decided that I wanted to be a part of the discussion and that one way I could do that was by reaching out to other women about the work they are doing to make the world a more loving and tolerant place.
She Persisted was born and will in turn highlight the life and work of awesome women in effort to balance the scales and inspire young girls to attack their dreams and be bold for change.
Carissa Stolting: I’ve been quietly observing and learning from this particular woman for around seven years and she never ceases to amaze me. A prolific and fluent Francophile, Stolting has creatively navigated her way in a field that has no how-to manual. She’s worked hand in hand with Ashley Capps to develop the much loved Big Ears Festival and has launched the careers of some pretty extraordinary musicians with her management company Left Bank. It seems apparent that she’s somehow blended her great taste, creativity and work ethic into a career that really fits no mold. Beyond that, she is a constant source of support for me in my own career. She’s the person I call when I have a problem nobody else can solve or when I need a recommendation for new music to listen to or if I just need a sympathetic ear.
The most brilliant element of this event, in my opinion, was the panel discussion.In our current political climate, we sometimes forget that people who have vastly different belief systems can still coexist peacefully. The stated goal of the event: “... is to listen to many different voices of women in Nashville and learn how we can work harder to support each other.”
I also attached some photos and video from the event. More photos can be found HERE.
Interview with Carissa Stolting:
Was there a single motivating event that inspired Nashville International Women’s Day?
The idea for Nashville International Women’s Day started about two years ago when artist Wu Fei moved to Nashville from Beijing. Of course International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8th…but Wu Fei noticed that Nashville largely did not observe Women’s Day. The idea to create our own event focusing on diversity and bringing women together from many different communities in Nashville began to take shape. It took us a few years to flesh out our approach but once we started building the group of artists, activists and partners to support the event, things seemed to come together easily.
There was a lot of social media backlash against the Women’s March in DC. The hashtag #RenameMillionWomenMarch exploded on twitter and women from around the country jumped in to ridicule the event. Did you experience positive media feedback? What about on social media? Do you feel the community supported the event?
We received a largely positive response from media. Our event focused on our common ground, what unites us as women in this city, on inclusivity and intersectionality. We wanted to give the microphone to as many different voices and hear as many different opinions on polarizing issues as we could… and get to a space of acknowledgement and celebrating differences instead of letting those be dividing lines. We did this from a programming perspective by weaving panel discussion on relevant issues into the bigger context of art, spoken word, music. Overall I hope it was a celebration of differences. It’s not often that you see pro-life and pro-choice women not only openly listening to, but applauding each other’s respective opinions on the issue. That happened during our panel discussion and it is one moment that really resonates with me. We don’t have to cleave apart our whole movement based on these issues, especially not now when we need everyone.
But yea, we did get some pushback on social media. One of the first comments was “are pro-life women invited?” or “I bet stay-at-home moms aren’t welcome” and I wanted to write back and say “Yes, please come and do you want to be on a panel?”
The majority of artists you represent are female. Was this a conscious choice or did you just naturally gravitate toward the music of Wu Fei, Abigail Washburn and Rachel Grimes?
I don’t think it was conscious, but friendships with women have always been some of the strongest and most nourishing relationships in my life. So I guess it makes sense I would be drawn to the power of women artists too.
The artists you represent are not exactly mainstream. How do you overcome the challenge of getting their music heard by a larger audience?
The artists I work with are not mainstream, but they are entirely unique. So the way to look at it instead of a challenges is... how can I find the right people to support and champion how unique this artist is. The artists I work with are not following a traditional mainstream or pop arc but they are going to make music for life, and their fans are going to love their music for life. It’s a steady climb instead of a spike.
Have ever experienced overt sexism in the course of your many jobs in the music industry?
I don’t think I’ve encountered or at least largely have not paid attention to overt sexism. I’ve had a lot of support from men and women in this industry.
Do you openly discuss feminism or issues of equality with the artists you represent at Left Bank?
Not really. Our conversations are generally planning, moving forward, next steps related to the artists’ projects and career.
Do you feel it’s possible to be a creative person in today’s world and ignore the issue of gender inequality?
Yes I do. I don’t think the word is “ignore” tho. If it’s an issue that is close to your heart, it could inform your art. Maybe the way to operate is to bring the issue forward and make it manifest through your work instead of ignore it. But either way, of course it’s possible to be a creative person in a world with challenges, limitations, struggle.
This begs the bigger question-do you believe we will ever live in a world where sexism and misogyny are relics of a bygone era?
I don’t know but I am hopeful. We don’t have a lot of signs pointing in that direction now. But one can always hope.