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Kim Phillips: Greater Denton Arts Council to celebrate Women's History Month

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Kim Phillips

Last Tuesday was the 2018 Texas Primary. Since turning 18, I have never missed or taken for granted the privilege of participating in the election process.

I'm reminded that in just 22 months, we'll turn the calendar to a landmark year in America's democratic process. It will be 2020, the 100th anniversary since Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing and protecting women's right to vote.

Since 1987, the United States has declared the month of March to be Women's History Month. While the women's suffrage movement is crucial, it's just one among many of women's contributions to history, culture and society celebrated across the country.

The Greater Denton Arts Council has big plans for connecting Denton residents with Women's History Month. They're honing in on contributions local women have made to Denton's history, culture and society.

Georgina Ngozi is GDAC's executive director. "I wanted to seize this moment to bring attention to all that Denton women bring to the cultural landscape," she said, referring to GDAC's upcoming "EVERYWOMAN Celebration" on March 23 at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center.

The lineup for EVERYWOMAN Celebration is as diverse as it is impressive. Opening with a solo dance performance of an original creation is Texas Woman's University's highly acclaimed Mary Williford-Shade, professor and chairwoman of the Department of Dance and co-coordinator of the School of the Arts.

Ngozi will read from her own poetry. She's a poet? "A hidden talent," she said with a humble smile.

Gwynne Montgomery Johnson, famous for her smooth jazz vocals, will be up next, followed by some of Williford-Shade's top students.

"When I saw these graduate student choreographers' work, I was so impressed," Ngozi said. "I invited them to perform excerpts from their pieces."

She got the same inclination after she saw the students of Mary Lynn Babcock, University of North Texas associate professor of Dance, perform "Through the Narrow Door." Their dance excerpt will be the grand finale of the evening.

North Central Texas College student and Latino poet Linda Hernandez will share some of her original work, and Cassandra Barry, another on Denton's radar of great female jazz vocalists, will perform.

It turns out that among Ngozi's hidden talents is filmmaking. Her video is a collection of stories, imagery and historical film footage.

"It's about women the world over who are doing fantastic things," Ngozi said.

TWU visual art professor Colby Parsons teaches his ceramic arts craft, but he is also an artist in new and interactive media. Ngozi and Parsons collaborated and will present a visual experience through an artistic projection of her film screening simultaneously in part on one of the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center's outdoor walls and in full across the interior walls of the center's Festival Hall.

Women-owned restaurants and chefs like Suzanne Johnson of Chestnut Tree Bistro will be the creators behind the culinary arts at EVERYWOMAN. When Don Weinberger of Weinberger's Deli heard about the event, he immediately got on board since his daughter owns the Denton store.

The highlight of the evening will be the world premiere of "Living Art — Jo Williams, Seeing the World with an Artist's Eye." This short film is produced and directed by Denton native and filmmaker Susan Carol Davis. Davis spent a successful career in Los Angeles, both acting and directing, before moving home to become a major influence in Denton's arts scene.

I got the opportunity to see a sneak peek of Davis' film. It is a beautiful story about a woman by a woman. I can think of no better setting for this premiere than EVERYWOMAN.

Tickets to EVERYWOMAN are $5.

"In addition to showcasing the finest of women's artistry here in Denton, this is a fundraiser to support local artists and artist organizations like GDAC has done for many years," Ngozi said.

After the Texas Commission on the Arts' funding cut in the last legislative session, Ngozi said GDAC is picking up the slack, trying to generate the revenue necessary for a successful 2018 sub-granting program. Even EVERYWOMAN'S performers are helping boost that fund, each one donating their art.

"There are so many talented people here. Visual artists, dancers, singers, restaurant owners, they're just doing their life, what they are gifted to do," Ngozi said. "I imagine many of them are doing it for the love of the work while trying to make ends meet by their craft. How blessed we are to have them all within arm's length of us."

The EVERYWOMAN Celebration is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 23 at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center and is open to the public.

"It's an event to celebrate women and honorable men," Ngozi says.

The Patterson-Appleton Arts Center is open Tuesday through Saturday. Currently on exhibit is Materials Hard & Soft in the Meadows Gallery, the Youth Art Exhibit celebrating Youth Art Month in the Gough Gallery and Robert Jessup: Squares in Fiesta Hall. Find EVERYWOMAN details at

KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton's original, independent spirit through the city's sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at