Women artists to be celebrated at local gallery

Kim Rodia

Cheryl Townsend’s passion in life is to increase the exposure of women’s art – no matter what it takes.

“I used to walk around with a portfolio of all my artists and call myself an art pimp,” Townsend said. “You know, just pimping my girls all over town.”

But Townsend does not operate a local escort service. She is, however, a poet, photographer, publisher and founder of the Women’s Art Recognition Movement, a local grassroots organization of international female artists.

Every March, W.A.R.M. hosts its annual fundraising event to benefit a local women’s organization in honor of Women’s History Month. This year, it’s the “Hangin’ with the Gals” Silent Art Auction that will benefit Safer Futures, a Portage County battered women’s shelter.

The auction’s opening reception begins at 8 p.m. at the North Water Street Gallery. Photographs, paintings, collages, beaded jewelry, clothing and more will be up for bidding. The event will also feature live music, food and beverages.

Townsend said she and fellow co-founder Molly Merryman came up with the concept for W.A.R.M. while attending a feminist performance on campus 10 years ago.

“She and I went to see the Guerrilla Girls up at Kent State,” Townsend said. “The Guerrilla Girls are a group of women artists who protest the fact that women aren’t represented enough in the major galleries or studios. So we thought, ‘Hey, why don’t we do something about that.'”

In 1999, shortly after Townsend and Merryman found their inspiration in the Guerrilla Girls’ performance, W.A.R.M. was born. The organization initially put down its roots in Townsend’s bookstore, Cat’s Impetuous Books & Stuff, located in downtown Kent. However, because of a city building project, the organization moved to the Standing Rock Cultural Arts’ North Water Street Gallery eight years ago.

Jeff Ingram, executive director of Standing Rock Cultural Arts, said he is happy to be supporting W.A.R.M. in its effort to promote local women’s talent.

“I appreciate doing this,” Ingram said. “It’s one of the many things that SRCA does for the community, and I like to support all the different organizations that are out there. There’s a lot of great women’s art in this particular auction. I encourage people to come down and put a bid on something and support a local women’s shelter.”

Townsend agreed, adding people should take advantage of the great deals the auction has to offer.

“Cheap art. Good, cheap art,” she said. “It’s being sold for fractions of what it’s worth and for a good cause. You never know when you may need (help) yourself.”

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Kim Rodia at [email protected]