It is exciting to have the Ell@s collective working with STAC in their 10-week Arts In Action workshop. This innovative collective explores topics with art, creativity, activism and discusses many important issues such as gender, inequality and more. They are a true motivation for young womyn and the community. They are part of the bigger picture of Wilmington, expanding and offering such great collectives, spaces and opportunities for the youth to stay busy and gain new knowledge. It is truly special because it is something many of us never had growing up. On that note I got to learn more about Ell@s. Check it…
When did Ell@s first begin?
Ell@s had our first official meeting in May 2011, but there were a lot of conversations, events, friendships, and collaborations that led up to that first meeting.
What was the motivation for starting a feminist collective in this area? Was there anything specific in any of the members experiences that motivated the collective to be created?
One of our biggest motivations for starting a feminist collective was that we didn’t know of any feminist movements, organizations, or circles in the Wilmington/Carson area. A lot of us had organized around feminist issues in our schools, and throughout L.A. and wanted to create a movement in the South Bay. Street harassment, sexual assault, and violence against womyn were issues that got us talking about creating a collective. One of our members (Carmen) organized a show last year called No Cat Calls! The night was a lot of fun and had a serious message around sexual harassment in public. That show was when we started to talk about getting together and finding like-minded folks. As the group expanded, we saw that the collective we wanted to be was a movement, a safe space, and a sisterhood of support. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other and what we envisioned the collective to be before we started doing community/public events.
How many Ell@s members are in the collective?
It’s hard to name everyone because Ell@s has had a number of people involved in our group from the beginning. We have expanded since the first meeting but there is a core group of about 10 of us – Sonya, Retro, Syl Via, Jovanna, Maria, Monique, Gloria, Nuria, Carmen, and Shonowa.
Are there any special talents or ideas that members bring to the table?
Yes! That is one of the great things about the collective -we are talented and unique individuals with the same vision. Creativity and art have been a big part of everything we do because we are a creative bunch. We are artists, students, activists, community organizers, hair stylists, poets, musicians, designers, and photographers that come together to heal, create, motivate, inspire, and challenge ourselves and our community. We want our communities to be safe, healthy, free of violence, full of resources, covered with art, and so much more.
How did the idea come about to do a workshop at Slanguage with STAC? What are the main goals for the teens?
Slanguage approached us about hosting the STAC program for the summer. Some of our members had worked with Slanguage in the past through their teen workshop and the WECAN residency. Up until the STAC program, we had collaborated on a few events in the community – Dia de los Muertos Peace Walk, Womyn’s History Month, Take Back the Night, and GOOD WARNING to mention a few. We were excited to do the STAC program. It was challenging, new, and gave us an opportunity to work with youth. We formed Arts in Action, a 10-week workshop series centered on identity, art, and activism. We wanted to combine our skills and share our knowledge with high school students (everything we wish we would have learned in high school). Our goals for the teens are for them to explore their identity and creative interest in a safe and empowering space. Each Arts in Action workshop is different but has format where we discuss, create art, learn about feminist artists, and feminist herstory.
Has the collective done similar work-shops?
Yes, in the past we have hosted similar workshops. The difference is that the program is youth centered.
As you know I able to attend one of your teen workshops and thought it was a great experince! However, how does Ell@s present topics such as class, gender, sexuality, feminism to the teens since unfortunately some teens don’t encounter topics like this in highschool?
We were very glad to have you! That poetry workshop was a lot of fun! You are very right. That was a lot of Ell@s experience in high school and part of why we wanted to discuss these topics. The program is set up give students space to learn from us and teach us as well. We ask them about their lives and experiences so they can find a place to connect.
For me it is a first to hear of such groups in this area, but it is exciting that so many young people, especially womyn are being more proactive with issues that affect us. Do you feel that new groups with empowering messages for womyn have changed from groups in the past? What is different if so and why?
Yeah, it is very exciting to be a part of a feminist collective in this area, it’s time. Some of Ell@s had done a lot of radical work in the Bay, Orange County, and in other parts of L.A., we wanted to see it in our hometowns. We are not quite sure about the second question… I think our collective is somewhat different from groups in the past. We have an artist approach to how we do things. Ell@s are a creative space, a movement that connects and heals. The collective still feels very new, we have been very busy in our year and a half of existence. We have focused on issues that are current in our communities and relative to our everyday experiences.
For those who are interested in joining the collective what do they have to do? Are men also able to join?
If you want to join, you have to dance battle Sonya! Just kidding, simply ask one of us or hit us up on our fan page! We like to take some time to hang out with folks and get to know them, their interests, and visions before they become involved. Ell@s collective is a womyn identified/trans space!
What are future plans for Ell@s? What would the group like to accomplish?
We are looking forward to the Slanguage Teen Art Summit! We are close to the end of our Arts in Action workshop series, we’re looking forward to taking time to reconnect and figure out where to move forward. We have a lot of ideas for the future – a Vagina Monologues, another Take Back the Night, and lots of community-based art projects. We want to continue to be a safe space to challenge patriarchy, violence, and injustice in our community.
For those interested in collaborating with Ell@s or interested in being part of this collective, contact their fan page on Facebook or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also please join us this Saturday, August 11, 2012 as Ell@s Collective in Residency at Slanguage will lead a workshop for their culminating event working with our youth at the Slanguage Teen Arts Summit! Teen Art Summit Event Page
Location: LA><Art 2640 S. La Cienega Los Angeles, CA 90034
11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
All photos by Monique Arellanes