The Athena Project Festival is currently on! The festival is a yearly event led by a group of professional artists who are dedicated to supporting Denver women in the arts. The Athena Project aims to empower women and girls and strengthen community by showcasing their artistic contributions and amplifying their voices so that the Denver community and beyond recognizes those contributions. This year, it features over 200 women across two galleries and five stages with 40 different performances spanning between March 20 and April 5.
The festival features just about every kind of art you can think of including theatre, dance, visual art and music. One of this year’s firsts is a musical showcase featuring some of the innovative ladies in the Denver music scene. The acts are diverse and powerful. Rounded up by Sarah Grace Slater, a promoter, curator and founder of TitWrench -- a festival that supports female-identified and genderqueer experimental artists -- Wheelchair Sports Camp, Melissa Ivey, Serephine Music and The Horse Latitudes will perform (more information about the artists follow this article).
Sarah Slater graciously made time Tuesday, March 24 to answer some questions about her role in the festival.
Where's a good place for folks to find out more about Athena Project Festival?
How did you become involved with this event?
I was honored to be asked to take part in the Athena Project Festival by their founder and executive director, Angela Astle. She contacted me late last summer for my expertise and skill in booking within the local music scene. She and her board wanted to expand the music portion of the festival into a full-fledged mini-festival within the larger program.
Does this festival have any relation to TitWrench?
This festival is not related directly to Titwrench, but we do have similar goals when it comes to amplifying the voices of new artists and highlighting new works of art, building community around them, making challenging and innovative artwork in Colorado and beyond and raising visibility of women.
Could you tell a bit about your background in music curation, your philosophy and overall goals?
I began booking live music shows over 20 years ago, as a teenager. My first show was held in a living room and people brought food and drinks, potluck-style. I was involved in the punk and hardcore music scenes, both in Denver and as an attendee of festivals across the Midwest. I loved the freedom and inclusivity of punk and I wanted to be a part of it, though I had no real desire to be on stage. I realized there was a place for me as a music promoter within the all-ages punk and music scenes, and there were lots of resources and knowledgeable people around me, so I began booking shows in backyards, living rooms and just about wherever I had the chance. I don't think it was until recently that people began calling me a "curator", but I'll take it.
With all the music shows that I put together, I'm most interested in creating event spaces that are accessible, inclusive, safe and welcoming to all ages whenever possible. By creating platforms for live music and performance, I most enjoy highlighting artists that are underrepresented in other scenes, that are doing unique and challenging work, and that are in need of new and different forums for their expression. My favorite shows tend to be diverse in style and genre, as well as smaller and more intimate, so that the audience has a chance to connect with each other, as well as the performers much more easily.
There is a great selection of artists that you have chosen. Could you speak a little about that?
I'm very proud of the depth of talent and dynamic artistry that all of these artists represent in their own way. They are locally-based artists with world-class talent. I like all of my music shows to represent a diversity of sounds, styles and backgrounds and this show is no different. I get bored easily at shows where all of the bands fall into the same genre!
Serephine is one of my favorite ethereal ambient artists around. She has a huge following at ARISE and some of the other outdoor festivals around the country. Serephine creates these expansive soundscapes with only her voice and a handful of instruments. There is a meditative feel to her songs that I really enjoy too. I have been a fan of Bonnie Gregory's music for quite some time and she will be performing with a new incarnation of her trio called The Horse Latitudes this Sunday. She imbues all of her songs (on harp, piano and guitar) with this sense of wonder and wanderlust that I find really refreshing and pure. Bianca Mikahn's solo work is deeply felt and it comes across in every performance of hers. I love that she is always experimenting, collaborating and releasing new work. Her artistry as a word seamstress and performer is phenomenal. Melissa Ivey, the Gypsy Rocker, is someone I met many moons ago around the local open mic circuit and she's always had this fierceness on stage that blows audiences away.
Part of what I love most about being a music promoter is watching artists evolve their sound and really find their voice as artists. Melissa is one of those who really stands out to me as someone who really OWNS what they are all about and what they want to share as an artist. Wheelchair Sports Camp is really my favorite local band right now. They're funky, experimental and jazzy and they have a fabulous sense of humor too. The energy of their live shows is just electric. I've also added L Presidente, a new local DJ to the mix - she has fantastic taste and brings a really fun, sensual vibe with all of her selections so she'll be keeping the energy going all night with great panache.