Three days before I remember consciously registering the word “coronavirus” for the first time, I was at an art gallery. The space was a small, concrete pop-up in Merchant City that teemed with work from punk femmes. Physical performance interspersed the afternoon and artists mingled with audience members, chatting warmly about their recent projects. Perusing the walls and collecting business cards like confetti, I felt enriched and utterly hopeful about the year ahead for women in the creative sector.
Now, a year and a half and a lifetime later, creatives worldwide are cautiously entering our long-dormant spaces, brushing away the cobwebs of financial limitations and governmental disinterest to create some of the most profoundly impactful collectives in recent memory. But instead of simply creative zones, many organizations have increased the parameter of care within their practice and are currently in the process of curating reparative, peaceful spaces for the gender-oppressed. The pandemic’s seismic jogging of social consciousness has significantly impacted the creative world, and artists across the nation are ensuring that as they re-open, their spaces are truly for everyone.
Already a demographic in constant need of care, support, and reparative space, women and gender-oppressed populations have been at the forefront of this new wave of celebratory space. With feminist organizations profiling some of the most inspiring work throughout the pandemic, recent relaxations in public health guidelines are allowing some of these organizations to finally engage in person.
MILK Cafe is nestled into the Southside of Glasgow and veritably teams with inclusive activities and welcoming energy. Founded in 2015, the cafe hosts a wide array of events and workshops that have distinguished it as one of the foremost locations of pristine equitable space in the city. If you need support, be it practical or emotional, MILK Cafe can supply it; events range from supper clubs to local befriending schemes to English classes and employability seminars for women of deprived backgrounds. The curation of this space, while not specifically creative, bolsters instead the very essence of feminine space – a place of rest and stability upon which creativity and community can grow. In providing space for women to grow and hone their skills and passions, MILK opens countless doors of opportunity to women across the city that had been closed by the pandemic, encouraging healthy living, emotional connection, and joyous engagement with local communities through food, education, and genuine kindness.
Other organizations are continuing to trend towards the virtual, but are holding space that is not only tangibly impactful, but a testament to the power of community. The Spit It Out Project, founded in Edinburgh in 2019, is a creative collective that works to articulate systemically disregarded inequalities pertaining to art, sex, and mental health through creative collaboration. From performance to artist-spotlighting to workshops and more, The Spit It Out Project has served as an educational space for those topics that dangle in the periphery of mainstream consciousness, from abortion to consent. Seeing one’s struggles expressed equitably through art is one of the universes’ great acts of healing, but The Spit It Out Project goes beyond even that. In connecting audience members to diverse authors, performers, facilitators, the Project ensures that their viewership will always be enriched with stories and creations that they may not have ever experienced. Their most recent Aye Consent campaign radiates warmth and reflection alongside pertinent information – a brilliantly curated combination of fact and feeling that both inspires and intrigues. As we venture further into the new-normal, The Spit It Out Project continues to hold space for an international audience as it expands complex ideas and emotions into our global feminist space.
One day, we will be back in our galleries, milling about admiring the work of our fellow artists in a space that is safe and whole without a thought of the isolation the past year has enforced. But until then, let us be ever grateful for the organizations that, in this extremely fragile and emotional time, put themselves forward as spaces in which we can begin to repair ourselves, not only as creatives, but as women who need healing. We have to begin again somewhere, and what a pleasure it is to begin with this company.
By Julia Hegele