Thursday, February 21, 2008


To counteract the alarming shortage of public art programs, increasingly these days women are taking matters into their own hands to make real and lasting changes in the lives of inner city youth. Let’s face it, most public schools are underfunded, teachers are underpaid, and students often feel underappreciated or straight-out neglected. Female artists with grassroots background recognize the importance of reaching out to kids to remind them that their voice matters and to show them that their dream of becoming poets, MCs, visual artists, or performers can in fact translate into reality.

Renaissance woman and true revolutionista at heart, Caitlin Meissner is living her dream of being an artist on a big mission. Spoken word poet, educator, and graphic designer by trade, Caitlin makes things happen. Building on her long-standing involvement in activism and her natural ability as a community builder, she has been successfully running Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Saturday Performance Series, which fulfills two objectives: it showcases today hottest female poets, singers, and artists in an intimate, free-to-all setting while fulfilling the Girls Club’s mission dedicated to “build ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leadership” for the next generation of female movers and shakers. Last week, I connected with Caitlin to talk about the series. Here is what I learned.

"The Saturday Performance Series, housed in the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Art+Community Gallery, started in a wonderfully organic way. I was assigned to help run the “Girl-Made & Fair Trade” Gift Shop, La Tiendita (“The Little Store”), which occupies the front of our non-profit office space. Since the gift shop was new and “off the beaten path,” it seemed natural to bridge my performance world with my work life and try to bring in shoppers via an “audience.” So I called on every woman I knew who made music and performed poetry to come and play live. Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to convince my folks to share with us (after all, we do have an incredible mission) and thus, though a side note, the series began. Sometimes the place was full, and other days there was an a mere embarrassing five bodies in the seats. Either way, the word spread like wild fire and the Girls Club saw the incredible potential in what was happening. It was a fine day when our Executive Director, Lyn Pentecost, gave me the green light to make this minor, essentially volunteer job, into my real job! With business cards boasting the title “Performance Series Coordinator” and a grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs secured, we began a real, growing series!

Now, the series works in two parts: a community performance open and free to all far and near, and a closed Girls Club Members-only workshop, which connects the performers with the girls in an intimate facilitated Q&A setting. The mission reads: The Lower Eastside Girls Club Saturday Performance Series, now in its second year, is a weekly afternoon performance series, open to the public, free-of-charge and featuring all-women line-ups of musicians, singer-songwriters, MC's and poets. This project is dedicated to upholding the Girls Club's mission of offering free and innovative cultural programming to Girls Club members, connecting the Girls Club to the greater community, and supporting women in the arts.

Through the series we hit on a number of important goals: offering a high quality cultural experience to low-income girls and their families; connecting girls with working artists, poets and musicians
through “VIP Luncheon” series before each performance; providing entrepreneurial training opportunities to Girls Club members through the adjoining café and gift store; making the Girls Club Art+Community Gallery and Café a downtown cultural destination for a socially conscious audience; providing female artists a welcoming environment in which to perform comfortably, try out new pieces and work with an all-women staff; and earning income through our café and gift store during Saturday performances.

We’ve been told, over and over, that the series sports an undeniable vibe. The girls contribute their incredible energy, our performers are top-rate, and the audience ever-thankful. Some of the wonderful women to bless our space this season include Honey Larochelle, Pyeng Threadgill, The Piper Jane Project, Maya Azucena, Shelly Nicole’s Blakbushe, Erika Rose, HeaVy, Tamar-Kali and so many more!"

This Saturday, you can check out some of New York City’s dopest female acts: 2007 Grand Slam Champ of the Nuyorican Poets Café, Aja Monet, who has been a favorite of both spoken word devotees and Hip-Hop crowds alike, performing alongside of singer-songwriter, Maritri, whose bittersweet lyrics over her landscape of piano, cello and guitar will take you to an inner space for reflection. The musical of THE OSLO on the 1's & 2's will also be in the house.

Lower Eastside Girls Club’s SATURDAY PERFORMANCE SERIES Presents:

3:30pm, February 23, 2008
@ Art+Community Gallery
56 East 1st Street (btw 1st & 2nd Aves)
New York, NY 10003

I suggest you go early as seats get filled rather fast. Did I mention it’s free?

For more info and schedules, visit the Girls Club online or email Caitlin Meissner for more info at
Listen to podcasts of past performances here.

ALONG THE SAME LINES, read a fellow blogger and educator's assessment of public high schools today in New York Times blog here.

1 comment:

Caitlin Meissner said...

Ok. Stop it! STOP BEING SO KIND! Blushing.