By Sara Elizabeth Taylor
CALGARY — Finally, after years of being associated with man-hating and bra-burning, it seems like feminism is making a mainstream comeback. From international movements, like Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in,” to the closer-to-home feminist riot grrrl flavour seen throughout Calgary’s own Sled Island, women are standing up and, more importantly, standing together.
So, let’s just say the members of Big Kitty Crew were ahead of the curve. Founded in Calgary in 2010 with the goal of encouraging a prominent female presence in the Canadian contemporary art scene, Big Kitty Crew is Canada’s largest all-female urban arts collective, with members across the country working in industries like visual art, graphic design, hip hop and contemporary dance choreography, and more.
“Our focus on being an all-female collective is to encourage younger generations of girls to follow their dreams,” describes local artist and Crew member Emma McCaul. “Gender inequalities still exist and young girls need role models to excel in life. We are more than a group of artists; we are a group of powerful professional females, who have fought to succeed in our various fields.”
Jennie Vallis, fellow artist and the founder of the Big Kitty Crew, agrees. “It’s been a really empowering and positive experience,” she says of her time in the Crew. “Not only do I get to surround myself with the fiercest ladies in the country and get constant inspiration from their own creative practices, but the whole experience of collaboration, feedback and community support has been a vital part of my personal and professional growth as an artist.”
This month, Big Kitty Crew is bringing an art exhibit featuring work from nine of their kitties – all from Calgary, Vancouver or Interior BC – to BoConcept Calgary. As with all their other shows, this exhibit will have a strong feline flavour, while also maintaining a connection to the Western Canadian hip hop and urban art communities. The Kitties are optimistic that the show will raise the profile of contemporary female artists in Western Canada.
“We are hoping to reach a broader audience within the exhibition at BoConcept,” says McCaul. “This show will give credit to what we are capable of, within a positive environment of supportive females.”
Looking forward, Bella P, brand ambassador for the Big Kitty Crew, is excited for the group to continue to grow. “Our main focus for the #bigkittycrew is for us to be able to grow more into national waters and add talented kitties with an art flare… and make a difference for these younger kids.”
“The most important driving force behind Big Kitty is community and collaboration,” adds Vallis. “Beyond just sharing and inspiring each other, being involved in the community and inspiring a younger generation of girls to become involved in the arts and express themselves through their medium of their choice, while connecting with others, is a huge part of the inspiration to found and run Big Kitty Crew.”
The Big Kitty Crew Art Exhibition will kick off at Broken City on July 3 with Meow Down, a party featuring work from the kitties of Western Canada, food and beverage service, musical performances and complimentary kitty swag bags. The exhibit then runs at BoConcept from July 3-20.AB, Alberta, arts collective, Big Kitty Crew, BoConcept, Broken City, feminism