Femina Potens, which means “powerful woman” in Latin, is a Non Profit Arts Organization celebrating difference and exploring identity through cultural and educational experiences that Serve to enrich the lives of LGBTQ & Allied Communities. Since 2000, we have presented ground breaking edgy performances & exhibitions that create space for necessary dialogue and community change in marginalized communities.
Femina Potens originated in the Do-It-Yourself arts movement that first appeared with the riot grrl movement based out of Olympia, Washington resulting in diy art festivals such as Ladyfest around the Millennium.
Artist and Activist, Madison Young, first founded Femina Potens in 2000 at the age of 20. The organization quickly started providing art exhibits, workshops,film screenings and poetry readings in venues that ranged from laundry mats to large warehouse spaces.
From 2003 to 2007, Femina Potens rented a storefront in the Mission where they organized almost 300 performing, visual, literary, media arts and educational programs. In 2004, Femina Potens formed an Artistic Advisory Board and secured fiscal sponsorship from the Queer Cultural Center. In 2005, the organization received our first government grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.
In June 2007, Femina Potens leased a storefront at Sanchez and Market Streets in San Francisco. At this venue, a small grant from Southern Exposure and the support of the Zellerbach Foundation enabled Femina Potens to launch the City’s first LGBT site-specific public arts program. Our small space visibly established the presence of the queer arts community on Market Street and expanded LGBT community access to and participation in the arts. The Gallery provided young and emerging queer women and transgender visual artists the opportunity to reach their target audiences.
In fall 2010, Femina Potens closed its Castro District venue, where the monthly rent had been rising and threatening the organizations sustainability. Founder, Madison Young, decided at that time that in order to save the organization it was best to leave the venue and pursue collaboration with allied LGBT and arts organizations.
Since that time we have staged our programs at different rented venues including Viracocha, the Center for Sex and Culture, Mission Control, Michelle Oconnor Gallery, Tall Tree Tambo, and Blue Dahlia.
In Spring of 2011, Femina Potens launched its newest program, FP Family, which is focused on programs, resources, performances, and art for and about queer family dynamics and queer youth.
In July 2011, Femina Potens moved its headquarters to an artist studio in the Mission. This space serves as an incubator for creating programming and workshopping new art works which are exhibited and programmed at larger existing public venues. To date, Femina Potens has organized approximately 125 curated exhibitions featuring queer women and transgender visual artists.
For the past 4 years, Femina Potens has curated and installed exhibitions in commercial businesses, health clinics, cultural centers and social service agencies frequented by queer clienteles. These exhibitions heighten the artists’ visibility, significantly expand and diversify our audiences and generate arts sales income that financially supports our community’s outstanding visual artists.
In 2009-10, Femina Potens installed at least 30 curated exhibitions in off-site locations, connecting our community’s outstanding visual artists to the queer and progressive audiences most likely to purchase their original work.
Femina Potens’ exhibitions have explored important issues confronting the LGBTQ community such as homophobia and transphobia, gender identity, sex worker rights, global warming, censorship, suicide prevention, domestic abuse, breast cancer, safer sex and body image. All of our exhibitions include an opening reception and an artist talk or panel discussion exploring the work’s expressive strategies and content.
They have also produced approximately 50 cross-generational “Sizzle!” programs that have presented emerging performers and writers on the same stage with established LGBTQ artists. Femina Potens has conducted numerous media arts programs as well as educational programs such as artist talks, panel discussions and workshops on a wide range of topics.
Since 2003, Femina Potens has organized arts events in collaboration with the Asian American Women Artists Association, CUAV, Stop AIDS, LYRIC, Lyon Martin Health Clinic, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the National Queer Arts Festival, Sister Spit, Fresh Meat Productions, Radar Productions and many others. We have presented artists such as Beat writer Diane di Prima, well-known lesbian writers Jewelle Gomez and Michelle Tea, internationally recognized comedian, actress, and musician Margaret Cho, and transgender writer and USC professor Jack Halberstam.
Before Femina Potens opened their doors, the audiences they serve only rarely had the opportunity to attend thoughtful artistic explorations of their lives. The community’s ongoing participation and support confirms our belief in the important role the arts play in the construction of a diverse and healthy community. Our programs have significantly diversified the kind of contemporary cutting-edge work available to San Francisco art goers: they have stimulated the production of a substantial quantity of original work by queer women and transgender artists and have developed an audience of a substantial size for their work.
In 2011, Femina Potens formed our board of directors including Violet Blue, Margaret Cho, and Jincey Lumpkin. Femina Potens 2011, programming confronted riveting and controversial themes such as alternative queer parenting, live in gallery conception performance art, motherhood through the eyes of a sex worker, redefining home, and ecosexuality. Such programs gained Femina Potens national attention in the media from sites such as Salon.com, Huffington Post, AOL News, San Francisco Chronicle, and a call from CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Femina Potens programming continues to be fearless and present critical conversations about current political issues that affect our artists on a very personal level. Art is a vehicle for social change and has the ability to expand the conversation to a larger audience. Interactive artistic experience such as those Femina Potens presents, empowers the artist and the audience to raise questions and have an affect on the environment and community that surrounds them.
In 2012, Femina Potens expanded our programming to outside of the bay area. Femina Potens is now producing exhibitions and performances in NYC and LA as well as continuing our programming with in San Francisco. Our continued programming in San Francisco include collaborative work with the National Queer Arts Festival and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Femina Potens has been hard at work for over a decade and is excited to continue our programming, creativity, and activism with the strong curatorial direction of artistic director and founder, Madison Young and a strong board of directors that is dedicated to the sustainability and growth of our organization.