“We women are creative, resourceful, and resilient. As artists, we should not only inspire with what beautiful gifts we have been given, but we as women in the arts, are responsible to use our gifts and be a positive force for change in the world.”
These are the words of Elena Maria Garcia, Cuban-American award-winning actress and playwright of ¡Fuácata! or a Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe. Like many others, Elena Maria Garcia’s parents fled Cuba to escape a tyrannical government. Now, many years after reaching the land of opportunity, Elena Maria Garcia is honored as a featured presenter at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Gala, an event celebrating women in the arts. With bold musical performances by Denyce Graves, Storm Large, and Rita Moreno, along with the striking symphony of Miami Chamber Music Society, the Arsht Center’s Gala was a beautiful presentation dedicated to honoring women’s achievements in the art world throughout the centuries, and, by extension, their unimpeded influence on humanity at large.
Presenters such as Nancy Cartwright, expressed not only their admiration for the strong, iconic women artists in the room, but, as Elena Garcia said, their desire to change the world they live in for the better. Cartwright is not only the voice of famous children’s cartoon characters such as Bart Simpson, she is also the founder of the Happy House character building program, an organization that advocates for the integration of art into early childhood education and encourages children to make constructive life choices. In the words of Nancy Cartwright: “I am a strong believer that art is an integral part of a child’s life… Out of all the voices that I’ve been fortunate enough to portray in television and in film, my voice for education and child development is the one I am the most proud of.”
As expressed by presenter and world-renowned actress, singer, and dancer Chita Rivera, it is true that “Women are eclectic human beings. We are mothers, wives, and caretakers. We are lawmakers, CEOs, and philanthropists. Everything [we women] do, we put everything into. To be an artist is to be an ambassador. And it is our duty as women to live for what our hearts beat for… that is what women do, and that is especially what women artists do. We celebrate life, in all its complexities. Its wonder and its profound joy.”
It is not hard to imagine the challenges that artists such as Rivera had to overcome in order to challenge the societal barriers of their gender. These women continue to defy the stereotypes of their race and age, paving the way for rising women artists and inspiring young and old women of all shapes and color to give voice to their passions. To be true to themselves. It is a battle that Judith Jamison, dancer, choreographer, and Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is very familiar with.
“What made them great,” says Judith Jamison, “was not their skills, which were incredible in their own right. It was their truth, to themselves, to their students, and to the art they were willing to make. Tonight, lets celebrate the profound sense of truth embedded in the work of our female artistic pioneers, and promise to thread that principle into the fabric of our arts community for generations to come.”
Women have and will continue to impact the world of the arts for centuries. Writing, song, theater and dance have been key instruments in expressing the love, the joy, and the profundity brewing within each of these inspiring women. In the words of Gala host Gloria Estefan, “The evidence is resoundingly clear: Women have left a brilliant footprint in the history of the arts, and in the history of our civilization. I mean, hello, we made civilization!”