By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Northern Michigan is big on talented women. But few know where to turn when it comes to promoting themselves, says a new networking organization.
Women in Music and Arts is hoping to change all that. The fledgling group will launch its first festival to shine a light on and support women in the arts on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Good Work Collective. Running noon to 10 p.m., the event will feature music performances, artists sketching and painting to music, art to view and buy, and arts activities for all ages.
"This is a pretty unique event — a full day of music and art that gives people a window into the women in our area that are working artists and musicians," said Mary Sue Wilkinson, lead singer with Sister Wilene, one of about a dozen acts performing at the Women in Music and Arts Festival.
The event grew out of a gathering of Wilkinson and friends Amber Buist, M'Lynn Hartwell and Blake Elliott, all of whom are involved in the arts, Buist said.
"The four of us got together and decided to put together a coalition of women to help each other grow," said Buist, a longtime event planner, member of the band Summerson and manager of the Traverse City folk duo The Accidentals, another of the festival's performers. "The idea is to learn how to market what you love to do, to live.
"People like (singer) Blake have so much talent, but don't really know how to market themselves. And there's no real networking organization that I know of that's geared toward both kinds of art: musicians and artists."
Buist said the scope of the problem became apparent as the women prepared to stage and promote the festival and its participants.
"Most artists didn't have a picture, a video, a promo packet, a bio," she said. "How can you promote yourself if you don't have a photo or a video? It's outside a lot of people's skill set to do a website."
She said the festival is only the first step in a networking circuit that will allow area women in music and art to support, mentor and share with one another. A workshop in January will include a "meet and greet," workshop sessions on promotion and marketing, and free promotional photo and video shoots.
Saturday's festival will showcase a different music act every 45 minutes, from emerging to established artists. Buist said several club owners have indicated they are coming to scout the talent, which includes ukulele folk musician Kayla Jo Cross; American roots band Stella! and its founder, Jo Serrapere, who has been featured on the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion;" and singer-songwriter Courtney Kaiser, whose music has been heard on the TV shows "Exiled," "Alter-Eco," "Private Practice" and "Bored To Death" and on Starbucks' "Have You Heard?" compilation.
Nearly two dozen artists will "perform" to the music, show and sell their work and lead workshops in watercolor painting, kids' art, environmental art and assemblage art (bring trinkets and shiny object to contribute). They include Melonie Steffes (whimsical paintings inspired by nature and womanhood), Kelly Nogoski (custom mugs, stickers and T-shirts), Michele Clishe (jewelry created from clock parts and industrial pieces) and Pamela Dueweke (recycled stainless steel-and-clay fine art sculptures).
"I'm incredibly excited to see all these women coming together, totally networking and seeing what the next step is," Buist said.
Local cork-and-cask, culinary and confection treats will be provided by Traverse City Wine & Art Festival, Roaming Harvest, Spanglish Catering, Grocer's Daughter Chocolate and Charles Layton Chocolate Truffles.
Tickets are $5, plus service fee, for arrival between noon and 5 p.m., and $10 plus fee for evening performances only. They're available at the door or at wimafest.com. Children under 12 get in free. Proceeds benefit the Good Work Collective.