DETROIT
03/02/2012 02:24 pm ET

'Women' Art Show Opens At Detroit Contemporary In Time For Women's History Month

Looking for a way to honor Women's History Month, which kicked off this week? How about checking out an art show dedicated to celebrating women?

Detroit's own juried invitational group show "Women" features work from 24 of the region's women artists in media including printmaking, photography, sculpture and painting. It opens Saturday evening with a Q&A and poetry readings at Detroit Contemporary, a gallery under the umbrella of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.

Myett Risker, a photographer, CAID board member and organizer of "Women," said she plans to make the show an annual tradition.

"I found out a lot of women didn't realize that March is Women's [History] Month," Risker said. "Women were saying they couldn't wait, and that this is their first women's show."

Since 1987, Women's History Month has given focus to women's fight for equality and contributions in the arts and sciences. This year's theme is "Our History Is Our Strength."

For the art show, Risker selected work that celebrated womanhood in a variety of interpretations, but she purposefully avoided the political -- a difficult decision. Instead, the show is meant to be festive and empowering.

An artist herself, Risker is often asked about her decision to label her own work, and that of the artists in show, with a gendered stamp. But she has a pithy reply:

"If there wasn't a need for it, there wouldn't be such a thing as Women's [History] Month," she said. "If I were a male, that question wouldn't even arise. You don't hear men having to say, 'I'm a male photographer.'"

Risker said she struggles with how to identify, both personally and in the art world, and she noted differences do exist for ethnic minorities and women.

"When I was younger ... I didn't want gender or race to identify who I am [as an artist], but as I got older and experienced things -- it is who I am; there is no changing of that," she said. "Yes, I am a human, I am an individual ... but my work is influenced by who I am, which is an African-American woman."

Saturday's panel brings together Gilda Snowden, Sabrina Nelson, Erin Martinez and JenClare Gawaran to talk about their experience as artists. It was important to Risker to include women of different ages and ethnicities to capture a spectrum of experiences.

Poets Sherina Rodriquez, Professor Kalimah Johnson, Ber-Henda Williams, Christina Perez and Aryn Smith will read their writing at the event.

While the "Women" show might have attendees considering the larger issues of gender in society, Risker said the opening reception will be merry and inclusive.

"Of course men are welcome," she added. "Women's issues -- it's an everybody thing. If you have a mom, an aunt, a daughter, a sister, then celebrating women is also geared to you, too."

"Women" opens Saturday, March 3 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Detroit Contemporary, 1541 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit, with a free reception, poetry reading and Q&A. The show closes March 31.

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