Art in action at the Women’s March

How local artists are contributing to the big event — dreaming, creating, and building community where it counts.

Artist Amir Khadar. Credit: Rose Jaffe

Every movement needs bread and roses.

You might recognize the work of artist Rose Jaffe— she’s a DC native with murals all over town, and her art space The Stew was home to tons of shows and workshops before it closed last year. This week, she and other local artists are in the final stages of dreaming, building, dying and painting the works of art that activists will carry in the third annual Women’s March this Saturday, January 19.

Below is our Q&A with Rose about the project, what makes this year’s march special, and how to bring artistic energy to our activism.

This is our third Women’s March in DC. What makes this year different?

Lots has happened since the first march in 2016. The #metoo movement took off, record number of women have been running (and winning) local and statewide elections, just to start! This year, as the movement grows, we are focused on continuing to center intersectionality. This means bringing a diverse team of artists to create work that relates to their identities and centering these on a national and global platform. This year there is a particular focus on ART and the power it has to build community, heal trauma, and disseminate critical messages across languages and borders.

Can you describe the project for our readers?

Three local art coordinators were hired by DC Action Lab, the local organizing contractor for the Women’s March. We were tasked with hiring a small team of artists to execute art for the front of the march (the first 500 or so feet.) This means — bring to light the ten critical agenda items of the Womens March and visually communicate the idea of “The Womens Wave.”

Credit: Rose Jaffe

What kinds of pieces are you creating and how are you hoping people will engage with them?

We have dreamed, planned, and executed 32 banners, 10 sculptural hearts, and 4 wave capes in about 10 days. The 10 horizontal banners have items directly tied to the action policies the Womens March is working with local organizations and groups to get done in the future and their relevant hashtags. These will be on ten-foot poles so they can be seen and read from hundreds of feet away.

The four capes will be worn by volunteers and have elements for folks to engage with as they move around to look like a wave. They were all hand dyed on fabric by one of our team members. It will be beautiful.

What are the benefits and challenges of fostering creativity and community in a non-permanent space for a one-time event? How can folks help carry this energy forward?

None of the artists knew each other before — we met online once, then in the space to create. Five days later we are cooking for each other, collaborating on an intimate level…and making MAGIC. This is what community building looks like. We will always be shifting spaces — the connections made in this temporary space will live on.

Credit: Rose Jaffe

Any advice for folks who want to apply their artist skills and energies to social justice work?

Find something that you are passionate about and can create authentically around. Do your work to be a good ally, if you are making art about something outside of your personal identity story. Listen. Be open to criticism and know it’s part of the learning process! And finally…just do it!

Want to start now? Come to the March! If you want to volunteer, email claire@dcactionlab.com. The wave is coming — go on, dive right in.

You can also follow the involved artists on Instagram:

Amir Khadar @amir.khadar

Vy Vu (@vuvu.art)

Jen White Johnson (@jtnoxroxs)

Tracie Ching (@tracie.ching)

Kate Deciccio (@k8deciccio)

Ahmane Glover (@fierceahmane)

Katty Huertas (@kattyhuertas)