Intersectional feminist art group supports student creativity

In May 2017, Artemis ended the school year by bringing together filmmakers, visual artists and musicians for “Playhouse: a study break and art show.” The event featured a short film premiere, live painting and a dance floor. (Photo courtesy of Artemis)

“Artemis definitely shapes your perspective of knowing that even as an individual you have the ability to empower other people,” Ellen Murray, the president of USC’s intersectional creative community Artemis, told the Daily Trojan.

Founded in Fall 2016 by a group of female students from the School of Cinematic Arts, Artemis — stylized as ART/EMIS on their website — is dedicated to the development of student projects in the areas of visual, performing, dramatic and digital arts, according to their website. 

The group’s philosophy is based on intersectional feminism — a branch of feminist movements that asserts there is a more complex, overlapping network of discrimination, based on race, class, nationality, sexual orientation and other factors alongside gender that continues to affect marginalized groups.

“There [are] white women, there [are] black women, there [are] gay women, there [are] trans women, and they each have different experiences that shape the way they perceive their womanhood,” said Murray, a senior studying theatre. “What is empowering to a white woman might not be empowering to a black woman.” 

The founders of Artemis wanted to create a space where artists had community support and resources to comment on intersectional discrimination through their work. Although the original members were film students, they quickly worked to expand the club’s reach to include other creative mediums.  

“Our members are in SDA, SCA, Roski, Marshall … they’re all over campus,” Murray said. “So, as an organization, we have a large network of people to get involved with and then we can put that network into our project[s].”

Students interested in Artemis submit applications pitching their project to the club’s executive board. Students whose pitches are accepted then work with Artemis to create timelines, budgets and development plans. In some cases, Artemis plays the role of consultant, advising students on how to proceed with a set plan. If a student only has an idea, the club will come in with a more hands-on approach, often putting together fundraising events and other resources. 

“Right off the bat, they wanted to be very inclusive to every kind of art, and we’ve always stayed with that,” Murray said. “If you give us a compelling reason why [your art] is exploring and expressing intersectional feminism through art, we’ll accept it because you’re passionate about it, and we want to hear about it.”

Outside of pitching their own idea, students can get involved by working on another student’s project. Artemis also hosts monthly community events on campus throughout the year, like panel discussions about working in the film industry and a session called “Vent Art,” where students were invited to draw while discussing their current sociopolitical frustrations. Murray said Artemis will likely hold its first community event of the year sometime in September. 

“[Artemis] taught me how to be a producer, budgeting, conflict resolution, leadership skills, how to communicate with others; all the skills that would make me a marketable candidate for any job,” Murray said. 

Murray said she learned more from working with the organization than she did in her classes at the School of Dramatic Arts. 

“There’s more space for failure with Artemis,” Murray said. “Especially for women, the creative world is very unforgiving. You may get one opportunity, and you have to claw your way up there to get it… [At Artemis,] we try to be more focused on how we can build people up rather than just saying ‘no.’” 

Murray hopes to eventually bring the club to other universities and build connections between the organization and industry professionals. 

“So many amazing women work in entertainment, law, production, [as] directors, writers, and if we could collaborate with them, we could get mentorships for students, we could get networking opportunities, [or even] financial assistance,” Murray said. 

Murray also said she hopes Artemis has an impact on the way creative classes are taught at USC.

“I think it would behoove [professors] to listen when we, the students, tell them that this is a valuable experience for us and for our peers,” Murray said. “I wish they wouldn’t try to resist that, and I wish that they would advocate for it more … because there are faculty who definitely advocate for student groups like Artemis, but there’s also faculty who don’t see the value, and they think it’s distracting from the classes.”