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McDavitt House seeks to promote gender equity in the arts

Ellie Kahn
Contributing Writer

If you’ve ever been to an arts event on campus and were left feeling disappointed by the lack of women and non-binary folks featured in the program, you aren’t alone here at Wooster.

After attending numerous creative events on campus this past year, four students — Robyn Newcomb ’20, Eleanor Linafelt ’20, Andrea Arts ’20 and Heather Knotek-Black ’20 — felt frustrated and confused by how heavily male-dominated the events seemed to be. An example that Newcomb used illustrates the situation well.

“Of [the] nineteen performers onstage at Springfest last year, not one was female or gender-nonconforming,” she explained.

It was this lack of female and non-binary representation that led those four students to create a program house based on supporting and elevating the voices of female and non-binary artists here at The College of Wooster.

Thus, the program at McDavitt House was born.

As Newcomb explained, “Last year, we all experienced similar feelings of frustration at how overwhelmingly homogenous creative groups at Wooster tended to be. The College of Wooster is so much more diverse than an event like Covers represents, so there are obviously forces of discrimination keeping other people out.”

The four students have been collectively working together to figure out what exactly this empowering new program will look like. According to Linafelt, they are going to start with the creation of a club called “Gearl Jam.” She explained, “The first step of this club will be to provide a group and space in which women and non-binary musicians can practice with and learn from one another, though we plan to also expand to other arts including writing, visual art and theater in the future.”

All members of McDavitt House are involved in forms of artistic expression on campus, including music, writing, studio art, theater and dance. This wide range of artistic interest within the house will help the students cater to a variety of artistic scenes, empowering and supporting women and non-binary folks in many different areas.

According to Newcomb, one of the goals of the program is to “promote a non male-dominant creative network at Wooster by putting on events and get-togethers where students who aren’t included in male social spheres can meet other girls/non-binary folks with shared artistic interests. When white men are the only people given any visibility, no one else knows how to find each other, and that makes collaboration so difficult.”

In terms of the type of art that the students hope to produce, the members of Gearl Jam will strive to create art that “raises awareness for issues of gender-based inequality and promotes ideals of intersectional feminism,” in addition to creating a less male-dominated space where people can learn and play music without being afraid to make a mistake. When thinking about the future, another goal of the group will be to bring bands and artists with more diverse gender representation to the Wooster campus.

Those interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to contact any of the members of McDavitt House and to look out for future events sponsored by Gearl Jam.

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