Like countless other events canceled this year due to the coronavirus, Madison-based art festival LunART has moved its proceedings online.
The event, in its third season, focuses on female artists of all art disciplines “from rap to rhapsody,” as the event’s website says. This year’s LunART festival is entitled “human family,” and will make celebrating Black women in the arts a central theme of the event.
The virtual session of LunART will take place over the course of multiple free live stream events on its website and Facebook page from Oct. 10 through Oct. 17.
“In response to the most recent and ongoing racial inequality and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, LunART will present the ‘Human Family’ virtual festival featuring art created by Black women,” LunART Founder and Executive/Artistic Director Iva Ugrcic said in a press release on the event’s site.
LunART was the brainchild of Ugrcic ever since her childhood in Serbia, where she was faced with a number of challenges involving gender inequity in her struggle to become a professional musician.
“Growing up in Serbia, it was very present, this gender inequality … I have been told personally, I am a woman, I can never be a professional musician,” Ugrcic said.
It was this struggle that eventually brought her to the U.S. After coming to the University of Wisconsin in 2014 to receive her doctorate in Musical Arts, Ugrcic brought the LunART festival to fruition following the creation of her doctoral dissertation on a lesser-known Romanian female artist. The first event took place in Madison in June of 2018 and was a huge success.
According to LunART’s mission statement, “The mission of LunART Festival is to support, inspire, promote and celebrate women in the arts through public performances, exhibitions, workshops and interdisciplinary collaboration, thus enriching our community and creating a welcoming space for learning and experimentation.”
Artists featured at the festival include singer-songwriters Akornefa Akyea and Danielle Crim and visual artist Amira Caire, who are natives of the Madison area. Other artists include UW graduates such as vocalist Deja Mason, writer and performer Jamie Dawson and dancer and choreographer Kimi Evelyn.
Along with contemporary artists, LunART also pays homage to pioneer artists of the past who paved the way for the success of women artists today.
“To be a woman composing classical music in the mid-20th century was unusual — to be a Black woman composer was even more so. And yet, these women forged ahead, making history and paving the way for the women who would follow them,” Ugrcic said in the 2020 LunARTS press release.
When asked how coronavirus affected this year’s festival, Ugrcic explained that many changes had to be made in order for the festival to continue as scheduled.
While COVID-19 did put a damper on the project, the extra downtime provided Ugrcic time to plan for LunART’s bright future.
“We had to pivot on a dime, every week [it was] something else … I am kind of used to working in high pressure situations and taking the best out of it, and that’s what I saw with [COVID], I knew as soon as corona hit, our season was off,” Ugrcic said. “I immediately began thinking about how I can take LunART to the level I have always wanted it to be … Finally I had all the time in the world”
Ugrcic also touched on how the Black Lives Matter movement influenced this year’s proceedings, noting that “now is the time to really spotlight some of these amazing black women.”
According to Ugrcic, turnout for the now-virtual event has been strong, as their first live stream gathered over 700 views. Many viewers reached out to Ugrcic with compliments, promising to tell their friends about the festival.
While this year’s LunART festival takes on a different form than in the past, both interest and attendance are as strong as ever. With changes to accommodate both the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement, LunART has successfully been able to weather the tumultuous 2020 season of arts festivals.