“Prior to attending the ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ event, I had been struggling to cope with the challenges associated with my identity as a black female student at a PWI, and I needed some sort of release from the tension and stress that I was feeling. The event came around at the perfect time. I wrote a poem a week or so before I found out about ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ to express my feelings, and I hadn’t intended on sharing it with anyone. Ultimately, I decided to use the poem as the centerpiece of the project once I was at the event. Attending ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ started as extra credit for an English course I was taking, but once I was there it became so much more to me.
What appealed to me about ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ was the artwork and its purpose. I loved that it was an interactive form of storytelling with the artist, their piece, and whoever was able to see it and touch it next. I wanted to be a part of that. I felt like I had been looked past and looked over at school and in life, and I wanted my identity to be seen and heard along with the other women’s stories. Though a lot of the art was different, I think all of the artwork and the artists who created the pieces had a similar goal of speaking up and speaking out in the safe space that Andrea Downs created, whereas a lot of us are told to behave, and to be quiet, and to sit still in society.
Sharing my poem was actually the easy part of the project for me. Creating the art associated with it was the difficult part for me at first, as I am not the best at arts and crafts. After speaking with some of the women at the event, and sharing my inspiration for the poem, my vision for the piece came together. The poem was about me, my management of anger, and the stigma associated with the expression of my emotions in our society. Since the piece was specific to me and my identity, I was able to create a layered piece of art that actually looked like me. The event allowed for anonymity, recognition, and validation all at the same time, and that was the beauty of this event and of this movement.
All of the art is created by women, and each piece holds a story and a voice, and because there are no names or signed signatures there’s this sense of safety and confidentiality in each piece without there being a disconnect. In fact, you gravitate towards the artwork because of the shared voices and shared experiences that you can physically see among women. They could be by and about any woman. You can read someone’s words and feel the layers of their project, and you don’t know the artist’s name or what they look like, but you connect with them on a level of understanding and empathy either because you’ve experienced something similar to them or because you know someone who has. It’s moving, really.
I appreciate ‘Airing Out the Dirty Laundry’ for all it accomplishes and aims to accomplish. I was able to bond with women during this event, and not just the women who created pieces, but the women who sat in the room with me. We were able to sit side by side and work and talk in this comfortable and safe environment without any judgement. I met professors I would never have crossed paths with and students I had not seen at school before. I left the event feeling heard and whole, and I even left the event with new friends I still talk to today.”