Quinnipiac was “Celebrating Women’s Creativity” at the eleventh annual women’s conference on March 5. The day was structured into different workshops, each containing a different theme in order to reach out to all the attendees’ different interests.
Lucy Anne Hurston, niece of the late Zora Neale Hurston, was the keynote speaker. She discussed the life of her aunt and also talked about the new book she had written in her honor.
“I came to this conference because it was required in my English class,” Bethany Dionne, junior journalism major, said. “We just finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God and I loved it. [Hurston] was incredible. I enjoyed the speech much more than I expected to and am really glad I went.”
Conference attendees chose from three concurrent workshops that took place during the next section of the day. The choices were “The Zen of Knitting,” “Connecticut: The State of the Arts” and “Bearing Witness: Embodying Violence, Performing Peace.”
“The Zen of Knitting” is based on Buddhist ideals of meditation.
“Years and years ago women just sat around and knitted,” explained Karen Gravino of Cheshire who attended the session and has attended the conference for three consecutive years. “Somehow it faded out and now they are doing it again.”
Buddhists take meditation walks that allow the mind to free itself from thoughts. Knitting serves the same purpose.
“People who have never knitted are now knitting and it is good because it decreases stresses in life,” Gravino said.
“Bearing Witness: Embodying Violence, Performing Peace” described the journey drama students and faculty took this year creating and performing a play based on the troubles in Northern Ireland and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The group will travel over spring break to perform the play for people who experienced the troubles firsthand.
“All scenes are based on ‘The Cost of the Troubles,'” Crystal Brian, professor of drama, said. Quinnipiac students Allison Clark, Josslyn DeCrosta and Samantha Byer each performed a monologue.
When the group travels to Northern Ireland, the entire journey will be documented by Professor Rebecca Abbott. The QU contingent will be attending sessions with different community group, and some will take on roles in the play that the group will perform.
“We have some really talented and socially committed female students on this campus,” Brian said. “I think this is a great opportunity to show the community some of the work they have done.”
The students believe that the collaborative piece is important to understand what occurred in Northern Ireland but it is also important to be able to express creativity.
“The issue of Ireland and people’s views of war are very important and the more people we can inspire and if we can make more people think about it, the better,” said Clark, a senior media production student. “It’s important for people to know how creative the Quinnipiac community is.”
“It brings our creativity to the table and so many times women were pushed to the side,” DeCrosta, senior journalism major, said.
The third workshop session was “The Scarlet Genotype.” Pattie Belle Hastings, professor of interactive digital design, performed a piece that was displayed at Mills Gallery/Boston Center for the Arts from Sept. 10 through Oct. 31, 2004.
Hastings sat in a white rocking chair in the left corner of the stage wearing only a white nightgown and a plaster pregnant belly. Lights and images flashed on the wall behind her and chimes played in the background. Hastings repeated over and over, “Do you want to see my baby’s chromosomes? Do you think they can fix her DNA? Do you think they have a cure for that?”
Once Hastings finished the excerpt of her performance she explained that what the audience just witnessed was a visual response to her representation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” Hastings was asked to participate in a show that was to celebrate Hawthorne’s bicentennial. At first Hastings was unsure she could connect the novel to her work, which has always been in the field of technology.
“I decided to explore the implications of the unseen becoming seen; the markings that define us. Our own genetic data will be used against us,” Hastings said. “It would produce discrimination on new levels we could never imagine before.” Hastings explained how DNA is the new age Scarlet Letter.
Many conference attendees were impressed by the variety of sessions.
“It’s nice to see different generations come together to discuss the same topic,” Jessica Beale of Wallingford , said.
Other lectures during the conference were “Do-It-Yourself Activism – People Have the Power,” “Outlook 2005: The Media’s Portrayal of Women” and “Songwriting for Every Woman.”
“The topic of women in creativity, especially as I get older, is important to me. It’s especially important to be reminded of the power of women coming together,” Stephanie Farber of Branford said. “There is a power in women talking about issues of community and issues in creativity.”