What is your background in feminism and/or social justice?
Lauren Villa: I’ve always considered myself a feminist. My mother is incredibly strong and she raised me to fight for what I believe in while also practicing compassion. My father immigrated to the United States before I was born. He taught me how to think about the world beyond borders. Feminism and social justice are the most natural concepts for me. I believe we all have a right to be here. To be loved. To be free.
Kim Garcia: Growing up an immigrant Filipina being simultaneously too Filipino and not Filipino enough, in a church community that introduced me to volunteer service, in a city where the homeless community looked no different than the slums of the Philippines, in a country that celebrated multiculturalism on land that was stolen through slaughter, in a society that did not see me the same way men were seen, in a world where are histories are erased, I was born into needing social justice for my existence, for my loved ones existence, for all human rights. It was not until I moved to the Bay Area that I truly found people who inspire revolution, a sharper political analysis, and communities who support my growth in the movement. There is a role for everybody the moment you decide for yourself that we can win against white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, imperialism and all the people who profit off the exploitation of our bodies and our land. People power is real and resistance is within our grasp. Both of us are living proof that our ancestors fought for our existence, that we will not be denied our power and we honor all those who came before us by continuing the fight for our freedom.
How would you describe your outreach work & what do you hope to accomplish?
LV: I am always scouting artists and creatives to reach out to via Instagram. I’ll check out their page, their website, their work, how they communicate with their community and if they look like a good fit for our project I’ll send them a message. Not everyone replies and that’s part of the process. Everyone is busy and there is so much good work being done right now. Creatives are usually juggling multiple commitments while also practicing their craft. I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond. I’m super stoked when an artist replies and they’re interested in our mission and goals. Engagement is huge, since we are asking artists to remain a part of our community even after their interview is completed. We want to inspire womxn to create and put their work out there even if they don’t think of themselves as an artist or they don’t view their work as good enough. We all have beautiful talents. We all have a medium to share our voice and perspective through - it’s just a matter of finding it and following it. We hope that by sharing the interviews of womxn creatives around the world, others will be inspired to share their work too.
KG: I love connecting with folks who have the courage to express themselves creatively, whether online or in public. I especially love going to open mics or art shows and connecting with artists on a more personal level. Connection towards building a community of supportive artists and creatives is what I hope to accomplish. I hope we can share our inspirations, our insecurities, and our perspectives with love and respect. I hope we can make a living off of supporting each other’s work. I have learned so much in the past two years from our community and I hope for even more artists and creatives to connect with each other.
Why is this work important?
LV: Before we started the project, I wasn’t working. I was fired from my job because of a #metoo type situation. I thought my career was over. But unemployment gave me time to reflect on my work - who I was as a creative. I thought about all of the capitalist structures I had been funneled through. How that shaped my notions of success and failure. I saw my loved ones running around working jobs they hated just to come home grumpy and tired. It inspired me to take the time to figure out what I loved.
I had to have some tough conversations with myself - what brings me joy? Who would I be if I didn’t care what people thought of me? I’m super inspired by womxn artists because they seem to have discovered the answers to these questions, or a least they are in the process of it.
Galleries, museums, art shows, art history books - they are almost entirely filled with the way MEN look at womxn, how they view womxn, and their bodies, their work. We see how womxn are fetishized and sexualized. When that happens you are leaving out an entire perspective. With OMWH we want to hear, document and uplift womxn’s perspectives. You must be able to see yourself in the artwork that is being produced. And if it’s not there, something problematic is going on.
I’m very passionate about capturing womxn’s voices. Capturing their realities and documenting these for future generations. Their own experience as a creative in their own words. We are representing the diverse voices of womxn – of different economic classes, education levels, races, sexualities, abilities, ages, body types, mediums. When we think of women artists we think of maybe Georgia O’Keefe. Maybe Frida Kahlo. We want to change that perspective so you are not thinking of them in this one monolithic structure, but instead you are viewing womxn artists as individuals, with different identities, different stories, different struggles and accomplishments. If we are not writing our own narratives or stories or we are not painting our own images, someone will paint them for us. Creating is how we define ourselves.
KG: This work is important to me because I know representation matters. Womxn’s voices and perspectives matter. Too long has history shown us that the only great artists are men. When we’ve asked folks, “Who are some of your favorite artists?” we are always stunned by how few can immediately think of a womxn’s work. We aimed for “one million” artists and creatives because we wanted to disrupt the narratives that perpetuate the belief that womxn don’t make good artists. Most importantly, we disrupt the belief that all womxn have the same story just because of our gender assigned at birth. Our work aims to honor the intersections of identities, the multiple perspectives and trajectories of womxn because we are limitless.
Can you talk about the evolution of your work?
KG: We started our ideas in a shared online document because after grad school we were living far apart. Collectively we have written over 300 pages in these documents and in these pages we wrote our wildest dreams, curiosities, fears, loves and all. the. feelings. Before we even started OMWH, we were always interested in asking questions and writing about it. One of my favorite memories is of us asking people if they had a sound system and learning how much people who did *loved* talking about it, and also noticing how many more men than women were investing in one. This still makes me laugh.
When Lauren moved down to San Diego, she had asked me if I wanted to start an online magazine with her. She had been freelance writing about the music and arts scene, while also working a full-time writing job that didn’t always inspire her most creative sides. I was also working and feeling at odds with how to practice creativity - pottery was expensive and my sketching was inconsistent. We both loved interviewing, we loved talking to creative people, and we thought, what if we could see people at any stage of their process, not just folks who have experienced money and fame, but anyone artistically driven? We found inspiration in other people’s passion and we wanted to uplift these voices to help each other tap in when we feel tapped out.
When Donald Trump began his presidential campaign, that’s when we knew we could do anything we wanted if he thought he could run this country. We also saw this emerging feminist scene to support Hillary Clinton’s run. Why was this idea of a non-male president so rare? That early memory of men talking more about sound systems than womxn, somehow it connected to my curiosity around womxn producing music and why that felt so rare. Why did it seem harder to identify womxn when we knew womxn have been creating since the beginning? More importantly, when it was shown 53% of white womxn voted for Trump, we crystallized the vision that our platform needed to center the experiences of black womxn, indigenous womxn, womxn of color because our stories have been erased and whitewashed.
With OMWH, we have the opportunity to focus on intersectionality because white hetero cis men take up space everywhere. It is what it is, until we collectively come together to make it not so. We are still learning how to be better at practicing our intersectionality. The evolution continues with feedback from our beloved community.
What is your most important artist or activist tool?
LV: The community. Word of mouth. Connections.
KG: Relationship building.
Is there an element of your work you enjoy most? Why?
LV: Outreaching to artists, getting to know what motivates or inspires them, reading their responses on how they handle mental health challenges.
KG: Finding or developing connections between womxn in our community because our collective power matters.
What is your philosophy for doing activism?
LV: Listen. Work slowly. Nothing happens overnight. I always want to get things done quickly but that’s not how activism works. I have to think about it as incremental progress instead of a revolution.
KG: Serve the people and we will win.
What inspired you to embark on this path?
LV: My family. My ancestors. My friends. I grew up in a world where, in the midst of chaos, strong women grounded me. My mom and my sister are my biggest supporters and influences. My friends are family. They’re all so creative and talented. I feel lucky to be a part of such a loving and supportive clan.
KG: Finding the truth within myself that my voice matters and if I have the privileges I have to express myself, the opportunities to do so, I must continue to use my voice because maybe someone out there can relate. Hopefully by supporting someone else’s expression, they would want to support anyone else’s expression as well because our representation matters.
Who are your biggest influences?
LV: My mother, my sister, and my friends.
KG: All the womxn in my life - my mom, my sister, my dear fam.
How do you make your work/outreach/project more inclusive?
LV: Working alongside womxn artists is a privilege. You have to remain open to feedback. Sometimes we are working on something and someone calls us out or they want to open up a discussion. Yes, we are founders of the One Million Wild Hearts project, but we are learning as we go. We are human beings. We are sisters. We are daughters. We are lovers. We are dreamers. You have to trust that you don’t know everything, you don’t even know the best way to go about this work because it’s always changing. Remaining open and humble are two things we try to do to remain inclusive of our community of artists. That’s still a work in progress. We’ve started brainstorming about how we can open up a better line of communication with artists. We’ve thrown around the idea of starting an advisory board so we can periodically check in and see if what we’re doing is truly reflective of the community’s vision/needs/wants.
What is day-to-day life like in your workspace?
LV: Chaotic! Energizing! I guess that’s referring to my mental workspace. My physical workspace is wherever I have a computer and some tea or coffee. That’s usually my bed, outside in the garden, or on my phone while I’m sitting on the toilet. Working on the documentary Kickstarter and the project has been like a second full-time job. Kim and I meet over Facetime every Friday to map out our workplans for the week.
KG: I feel like there is always something to work on, professionally, creatively or in my volunteering, so you can find me at the office or at home on a computer, eating fruits, drinking coffee, trying to organize my to-dos in an action planner, and breaking with moments of laughter through my coworkers, roommates, memes and cute animal videos.
Is there something you can’t live without in your workspace?
LV: Sunlight. Chocolate. Tea. Imagination.
KG: Sun, coffee, paper, pens, water, and some good trees.
Why do you choose this project as your main method of engaging with feminism?
KG: Two years into it, I keep getting feedback that this work is important, that we need to continue. It is not until recently that I really understood how deeply embedded we are in a society that has only so many modes of media, only so many narratives shown. I love watching documentaries, but feel like when searching Netflix or Hulu, there’s barely documentaries on womxn. I want to continue producing content that uplifts more voices of womxn, social media gives us a chance to share our work more broadly, video feels like the wave, so we are going to keep riding it until we hit our million. At this rate, maybe not in our lifetimes, but we’ll be watching from the stars.
How do you balance your mission of social justice with earning a living?
KG: There is a great quote by Marian Wright Edelman:
“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”
I very much believe this to be true and that is why I spend all my time in one way or another working towards social justice. Sometimes it means I am very tired, frustrated, melting down, eating terrible, not exercising, but in the end, everything and more seems to return to me. I have learned that meditation is key, sharing hardships with others is healing, community brings abundance, and that there is more on the other side if we can just keep swimming.
What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?
1. Follow us!
2. Buy womxn-made art and support the artists.
3. Engage with us - let us know what’s working and what’s not or what you want to see more of.
4. Volunteer! We are always looking for people who want to get more involved with the project.
5. Send us the names and info of people who are doing similar work so we can grow stronger together. Invite us to your events so we can meet in person!
- Support One Million Wild Hearts on Kickstarter
- Explore the project's website
- Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr!