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Celebrating women in the arts

Artists in Parnership hosts annual fundraiser

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“As artists, as content creators, as community leaders, as role models, you have to be hungry for your dreams,” Natasha Nurse, founder of Dressing Room 8, a web-based resource that offers women personal and professional advice, consultations and coaching services, told a crowd of more than 150 people in a ballroom at the Allegria Hotel on March 22. “No one will care about your dreams more than you. It is up to you to make the world hear what you have to say — no one else.”

Artists in Partnership Inc., a local arts nonprofit organization, hosted the third annual Women in the Arts Awards and Recognition Party Fundraiser to celebrate the contributions of local artists to the community and to honor Women’s History Month.

Johanna Mathieson-Ellmer, executive director of AIP, invited community members to an evening of live music by Benoir; a fashion show hosted by stylist Chris Banks, and featuring clothing from Ooh-La-La and Cover Girl; a performance by Dance Loft; vendors showcasing beauty items from local businesses, and a talk by Nurse, who Mathieson-Ellmer said found fashion a source of strength and empowerment early in her life, after being bullied by her peers.

Nurse, who was an attorney before shifting her career in the direction of fashion and lifestyle blogging, served as this year’s keynote speaker, sharing her thoughts on the “four main principles” of using art and media as a source of personal and community empowerment.

“I wasn’t happy as a lawyer — go figure,” Nurse said with a laugh. “I turned to things that I’m really passionate about, which is writing, public speaking, working and helping other people and really focusing on creating and curating the life and career that you want for yourself.”

Nurse is also the lifestyle editor of Plus Model magazine, an adjunct professor of women’s studies at Nassau Community College, a program coordinator of Long Island Girl Talk and a co-host of a podcast called WokeNFree.

The first principle she touched on was clarity, emphasizing a need to convey a purpose. “I think when we’re creating art, when people are looking through our YouTube channels, our blogs, the content that we’re sharing with the world, it needs to be very clear why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Nurse said. “And it needs to be very clear why the world should care.”

Her second point was to take the time to talk about oneself. Nurse said that rather than letting your product speak for itself, it’s important to master the art of storytelling, and to explain to consumers who you are, what you do and why they should care. It shouldn’t be hidden, she said, but attached.

“If you want to move the hearts and minds of the masses, people need to understand who you are,” Nurse said. “As we go out and we put our content in the world, don’t be afraid to go on podcasts, to get interviews, to use social media, to use media to get your message heard — because that’s what’s going to make it resonate for people.”

Another principle she touched on was confidence, using Beyoncé — who “oozes” confidence — as an example. “It’s not optional, it’s mandatory,” she said. “If you’re an artist, if you’re a content creator, you owe it to yourself to confidently show up and show out.”

Finally, she urged women to take the initiative when it comes to their goals, and avoid roadblocks. “Who here has ever said the phrase, ‘I don’t know how to get started,’ ‘I don’t know how to do something’? Be honest,” Nurse said. “OK, so we can’t do that anymore. Why? Because there’s something called Google.com.”

The crowd cheered. “You have to confidently present yourself, present your image, present your message,” she added, “and make it be heard.”

Among those recognized at the party for their support of the arts in the community was Stephanie Klemons, of Long Beach, the associate choreographer and global dance supervisor of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Jaclyn Feldman and Kathy V. Williams were presented with Lifetime Achievement awards; Helen Dorado Alessi, Karen Dinan, Dr. Donna Gaines, Eve Hammer, Klemons, Katie Mitchell, Nicole Koenig Passman and Susan Turner Radin were given Artists and Community awards; Pamela Kreutzberg received a Business and Community award; Lina Diamond and Marina Nova won the new Rising Stars award; and Debra Campbell and Linda Chong Haber won the new Community Champions award.

Additionally, the offices of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Assemblywoman Melissa Miller and Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford presented certificates to the honorees.

“This year’s group of extraordinary women includes visual and literary artists, musicians, educators, business women and community activists who all have something in common — a love and support for cultural arts and local community,” Mathieson-Ellmer said in a statement.

She added that the event grows each year, and that recommendations for 2020 nominees have already started coming in. The proceeds from the evening will benefit local community arts programs.