THE GIRL PROJECT is making big changes

starting with OUR NAME...

The Girl Project (TGP) has acted as the name of our mothership for the past eight years, but this name has inadvertently excluded voices we strive to amplify, including past participants of The Girl Project. And while 2020 has brought unprecedented upheaval, it has also offered time for reflection, consideration, and specification.

 

At the foundation of our teaching, we utilize intersectional feminist principles that look at the many forms of inequality and where they intersect and overlap. Those intersections of inequality colliding with performing arts as a platform for storytelling is where our activism comes into focus. Through our work we have had the privilege of holding space with many underrepresented voices at these intersections. However, the name The Girl Project does not fully encompass everyone we have met at those intersections and in those spaces. As we play our part in the fight to accept and embrace more nuanced identities - be it gender identity, race, social status, abilities, religion, sexuality - we must play our part to amplify underrepresented voices that are forging a path for inclusion, representation and recognition of past harms. Our mothership name must embrace everyone we meet at every intersection; she must embrace the nuances of all the voices that are fighting courageously for recognition and change. Therefore, our mission will become our mothership name, VoicesAmplified!

 

Voices Amplified will be our new mothership name but we will continue with all of our arts activism work: The Girl Project, The Girl Project: Next Generation, The GenZ Project and Voices Heard as soon as we are able to safely gather in shared spaces again. 

UNTIL THEN, WE ARE LAUNCHING A PODCAST!

We have watched as theatres across the country have closed their doors without any projection of when operations will resume. This is scary because, as we all know, art is essential. It contributes to the healing of divisions, nurtures public dialogue, and engages communities in positive change. That is why we must not sit still. We miss our community, we miss opportunities to engage with storytellers and change makers, and while we can’t gather in public spaces, we can be engaged collectively in an intimate space. So, we are launching the podcast - VoicesAmp’d!

 

Cranking up the volume on voices, stories and action, Voices Amp’d is an interview podcast featuring the artists, activists, community leaders and organizers that have been inspirational to our arts-activism and advocacy work for the past eight years. Each episode will take a deep dive into the personal journey of our guest. We will talk about their personal and professional lives, their successes, their setbacks and the obstacles they've faced in pursuit of their passion. We will also invite each guest to share some of their personal creative work or work that is currently fueling or inspiring them.

And finally, WE ARE BECOMING AN 

INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATION!

The Girl Project has been shapeshifting, as we have worked under the mission of multiple theatres in their educational programming. Our biggest champion, Trish Clark, made space for the project as Artistic/Executive Director at both theatres under which we operated.  These theatres allowed our programming to grow rapidly to include The Girl Project: Next Generation, Voices Heard, The Boy Project and The GenZ Project. All of these projects furthered our mission: to amplify and empower voices. Notice how I said, “our mission.” TGP and our programming was growing so fast while trying to fit our own mission into the confines of the mission of another not-for-profit. As collaborators we made this work, most of the time with ease. There were moments where concessions had to be made, there were moments of “asking for permission” to be who we are, and then there was 2020. It was crystal clear that our shapeshifting was coming to an end. It was time to stop trying to fit the mold of someone else’s mission. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GIRL PROJECT

This is the short history, but like most journeys, we could write a book….and we just might. 

IN THE BEGINNING...

I don’t believe that we knew at that coffee table in 2012 the journey on which we were about to embark. Who knows, maybe we did. There was a glimmer, a daydream, perhaps some seeds of magic being planted. We were two women who had known each other for less than three months who both were working under Kentucky Conservatory Theatre Artistic Director, Trish Clark. Some believe Trish Clark carries around a small bag of fairy dust. Maybe she does. And maybe, just maybe, she happened to sprinkle some in our manilla folders that day. Those manilla folders had written on them in purple marker, The Girl Project.

 

HOW THE GIRL PROJECT LEADERSHIP TEAM CAME TO BE

I once heard a podcaster say, “We impart a message to others, because we don’t value that message in ourselves.”

It’s a lot like saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

 

The Girl Project was founded in 2012 by Ellie Clark and Vanessa Becker Weig and for eight years has been amplifying the voices of young people as they stepped into power and grace in sharing their stories in the most vulnerable way possible: on a stage, under a spotlight. These stories were shared with audiences full of family, friends, peers, and community members. Most of these young people didn’t consider themselves performers. I think most of them had a secret though, like all of us. Something they knew instinctively needed freedom, but they didn’t know how to give it wings. Like us, they had a message to impart to others, but didn’t know how to value it in themselves. We made it our mission to excavate their stories, to give value to every word, and to amplify their voices. These eight years have been some of the most rewarding of our lives, we have been deeply inspired and forever changed. 

 

A dear friend of The Girl Project brought Margaret McGladrey to see the 2013 inaugural performance of TGP and that was that (some fairy dust must have gotten in her hair). A year later she joined forces with TGP as a volunteer grant writer, but her involvement and contributions to the project grew rapidly. In 2014 she created and developed our cross-age peer mentoring program that is the foundation for our middle school program, The Girl Project: Next Generation, and has acted as co-leader of the program for the past six years. In 2016, Margaret’s doctoral work became a student-led research team, made up of alumni of TGP and known as the PhDivas, who were measuring the effects and outcomes of participation in TGP. They were also measuring the project’s effects on the audience and community. We learned from their research that participants’ statistical scores on mental health and body confidence measurements significantly improved after their participation in TGP. That means that they are less vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. We also learned that TGP increased participants’ confidence, leadership capabilities, writing and creative skills, ability to plan for their futures, and efficacy in creating feminist social change. And perhaps, most importantly, we learned that educating them about media literacy (understanding how commercial media and its biases in representation can be harmful, and not everyone receives messages in the same way) requires social support from youth’s families and communities, not just a change in individual mindset. Media includes social media, film, TV, radio, magazines, and other cultural products designed for broad consumption.

 

It was in 2016 that Jeni Benavides materialized. Some major life changes shifted the ground underneath TGP’s feet and we knew that we needed someone with talent, heart and passion to continue the momentum of the project with the entire team. She fit like a glove (again...the fairy dust). She wore the many hats that are required for TGP. She was administrator, co-director and played a major role in the creation of Voices Heard. She also introduced Documentary Theatre as a centerpiece to our activist work.

 

THE GIRL PROJECT CREATIVE TEAM

“Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.” Osho

 

While we focus on the “short story” of how each leader found their way to the project, we would be remiss to not say this: This project would not be where it is or what it is without the guest artists who have invested their heart, creativity and time. We must call them by their names: Ellen Hagan, Chamara Jewel Kwakye, Jaqui Linder, Pat Gerhard, Tanya Torp, Caroline Harvey, Frank X Walker, Georgia Henkel, Danae Winters, Jenny Fitzpatrick, Roger Ainsle, Jaspreet Chahal, Ginna Hoben, Bianca Spriggs, Samantha Hess, Henry Layton, George Ella Lyons, Sullivan Canaday White, Crystal Wilkinson, Donna Ison, Elizabeth Beck, Lora Wilson, DaMaris Hill, Amanda Gookin, Adanma Barton, Travis Lope, Matt Johnson,

Pam Welsh Huggins, Mike Sanders, Kate Hadfield Antonetti, Emily Clark, Julie Edwards, Tasha Fauxe,

Shon Hemphill and Andrea Bendewald. 

 

All of these artists invited our young people, young artists, young thinkers, to embrace the places that feel scary or vulnerable and put it on the page, in their bodies and on their sleeves with their heart.

Their work motivates and inspires us. 

 

An even bigger shout out to activist and friend Christy K Burch who helped us shape our most influential and cherished time with our young people, the Closed Container. Her guidance and offerings were invaluable.

 

We must also recognize the 100+ artists that have contributed to, and participated in our annual community event, Voices Heard. We look forward to continued collaboration with all of these artists. This doesn’t include our committee members, sponsors, teachers, administrators, community members, partners and friends who have offered time, energy and talent to this project. All this is to say, we are very fortunate that so many incredible people have become a part of our community. 

 

WE COULDN’T BE MORE EXCITED TO MOVE FORWARD!

We hope you will consider supporting us as we move into this next leg of our journey. Look for our podcast, Voices Amp’d, coming January 2021. You can also check out our new website at www.VoicesAmplified.net.

 

 

Looking forward,

Ellie Clark, Vanessa Becker Weig 

Margaret McGladrey & Jeni Benavides