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Women in the Arts Festival honors women and their experiences

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All women have a story worth sharing. That story can be told through lyrical steps, through brush strokes or through written biographies of heroines in history. Goldenrod Music and Artist Service’s annual Women in the Arts Festival will celebrate all forms of narrative in its 34th installation.

This Friday, Nov. 8, and Saturday, Nov. 9, the women-centered festival will host local and national acts at the Edgewood United Church. The two-day festival will include workshops, music classes, an artist market and seven musical performances. New this year, all performances will have American Sign Language interpreters. 

Regulars of the Ten Pound Fiddle concert series or the sadly defunct Michigan Women’s Music Festival will recognize Friday’s headliner Natalia Zukerman. The New York guitarist and singer-songwriter had her original music featured on the soundtracks of “The L Word” and ABC Family’s “Chasing Life.” She has also opened for some acoustic greats such as Janis Ian, Ani DiFranco and Willy Porter. 

Zukerman gives a spellbinding one-woman show in her latest project, “The Women Who Road Away,” while showing painted watercolor visuals for each song. The body of work is a tribute to nine women whom Zuckerman credits as guides in her own quest for liberation. 

The album consists of nine “portrait songs,” based on attributes of the women she profiles in each song, said Zukerman. The characters depicted include Zuckerman’s fiancé, maternal grandmother, bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and other women in history who steered toward the unknown. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Friday set are $20 for the general public.

“They are all amazing women who because of the time they lived in, they didn’t get to live out their dreams,” Zukerman said of some of her muses. “I feel like in some ways that I get to do it, so I do it for them, because of them and through them.”

Zukerman will also perform “infectiously joyful and deeply connected songs to spirit” Saturday alongside Lisa Ferraro. The duo will lead a workshop Saturday called “The Power of Presence, Creating with Intention.”

Saturday’s headliner is poetry and dance duo Nia & Ness from New York. Nia & Ness are an up-and-coming performance act that turn their day-to-day experiences as unabashedly proud black lesbians into staged, visceral displays of survival. Saturday’s hourlong performance is entitled “home” and dives deep into the real-life couples “ship and anchor” relationship, as well as their experiences with homophobia, racism and mental health.

“This piece is a lot more intense and scarier to perform because it’s extremely personal,” said Nia Shand, the ship and dancer in the duet. “It’s also about how we help each other through all of it. We hold hands a lot in the work and we connect a lot visually in the piece.”

Unlike the streets of Brooklyn, where a lot of “home” was inspired, the duo’s strong presence silences onlookers, giving the audience no choice but to hear their truth. Tickets to see Nia & Ness Saturday at 6 p.m. are $15. 

Lansing’s own women’s chorus, Sistrum, will take the stage at 3 p.m. Saturday, filling the dome-like cathedral ceiling with sonic hope and glory. The choral performance will be followed with original music from pianist Anne Heaton who will share work from her new album “To the Light.” The final slot in the daytime lineup is held by Ann Arbor’s Jennifer Jones, known for her brand of folk-infused gospel. 

Those interested in volunteering at the festival can do so at witafestival.com. Ticket prices for individual performances are also listed on the website. Reduced prices are available to anyone, but will need to be ordered prior by contacting producer@witafestival.com.

Women in the Arts Festival

Friday, Nov. 8, 5 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 9, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Edgewood United Church

469 N. Hagadorn Road, East Lansing

(517) 484-1712

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