A woman may well be blazing a trail to the White House right now, but do women really have equal opportunity in the arts?
According to Dee Poku, founder of the influential women's leadership program WIE Network, the answer is a resolute no, which is why she’s bringing some woman-to-woman wisdom on how to turn creativity from a hobby into a career at the first-ever with The Other Festival.
“I’ve been hosting similar events for the past few years for WIE and seeing self-starters in all areas flocking, looking for support,” she says. “That was the genesis for The Other Festival. It will bring female makers into one room where they get advice and inspiration from women in a similar position.”
And she’s gotten some big names to share their secrets to success: actress Rosario Dawson; Baked by Melissa founder Melissa Ben-Ishay; Stephanie Mark, aka The Coveteur; and model Naomi Campbell, among others. There will also be performances and talks from artists Justine Skye, Natalia Clavier (Thievery Corporation), Brooke Candy, Yuna and Chelsea Layland.
Whether you’re a musician or painter, you are heading up a business — and businesswomen need to be just as creative outside of the studio, too. The Other Festival will mark the first in what the U.K.-born, New York-based Poku hopes will be an annual event providing a platform for women in worlds of music, fashion, film, art, food, design and technology to share experiences on overcoming challenges.
“I’m a big believer in creating your network to support your goals,” says Poku, speaking from Manhattan’s Spring Studios, where the event will be held. “Hearing other women’s process and how they overcome difficulties can be very empowering.
“One thing we stress is that the speakers don’t speak in broad platitudes — we need specifics and details about things like raising money for a business, or turning creativity into a livelihood.”
Poku says she herself finds inspiration from all-female events: “The atmosphere is incredible. It’s like being with 50 girlfriends, only there are 500 like-minded women. Being all women totally changes the dynamic.”
Still, in an ideal world she would be doing something else rather than organizing all-female networking events.
“I wish we didn’t need these things, truly I do. But it’s born out by statistics,” Poku says of gender-based inequality. “I’d like to go out of business and not have these events. That would mean the culture has changed and women have equal opportunity.”
The Other Festival
June 11, 11:30 a.m.-midnight
Spring Studios, 6 St Johns Lane & West Broadway
$50 and up