Nadia Alamah moved to Flint as a teenager and fell in love.
“I began to meet other artists and was exposed to this deep and rich art scene that we have here and that many—I believe—from outside the city don’t know about,” she says.
She is a force in Flint for celebrating this creativity. She is the Flint-based organizer of LadyFest, which monopolized five Flint venues earlier this month with stages, booths and exhibits celebrating women, empowerment, and LGBTQ rights. She describes herself as a writer, wanderer and wearer of many hats. She gives artists a stage, creates opportunities for collaboration, and provides spaces for inspiration.
“When you’re younger and walk around downtown and find yourself in Buckham Alley Fest and see all these artists that just welcome you in and make you feel comfortable, the goal is to show our talent but also that inclusivity with others inside the city and out,” Alamah says.
Festivals and similar events are especially powerful tools for Alamah.
“It's the skills our community has—but it is also the heart,” Alamah says, waving her arms about the concert hall at the Local 432 on a warm Saturday night. “Another note to consider, festivals in themselves have a sort of magic about them. They can motivate and empower people. They’re joyous,” she says. “By bringing people together in a framework of positivity and inclusivity, you can take on deeper issues in a different light. Like with our Flint water crisis panel or workshops for skill building, these are all outlets of representation for people to express their voice.”
Playing on the stage that night with a back drop of black and white movies, Hannah Kovalcheck says any opportunity to put on a show is a welcome opportunity—for her and for other artists whom Alamah provides a stage.
“I think anything that someone does that is creative should be shared with others—and that's why I’m here: To share what I do,” says Kovalcheck, who is also a local vegan chef and sees a commonality between cooking and creating art. “It's all about bringing people together.”
Theresa Roach, owner of Purl You Crazy displays her knitted and crocheted items at Factory Two as part of LadyFest, which Alamah brought to Flint with the help of Red Ink. “I don’t think people know just how much talent is here and any opportunity we have to show that off is a good thing,” says Roach. “I think having this event at Factory Two is important because it pushes back on this idea that factories and machinery are all for white dudes sitting around building stuff,” she says. “Right now, we need to be forward looking and we need spaces that encourage young women to do the same, to not be afraid to break with convention, to break those barriers and open things up to other people.”
Janice McCoy serves as art coordinator for LadyFest. She inspects the various pieces of art and adjusts a piece hanging on the wall. The mix of mediums and styles is intentional. “It’s about providing the opportunity for people and artists to enjoy art from our community regardless of who they are, where they come from or how much money they make,” she says.
Hailee Strong aka “Stormzee” and Kristin Johnson aka “Y.Sosirius” are also at Factory Two, talking to folks about Mid-Michigan Roller Derby and raising money for their next match. “We like to think our sport is about empowering women and supporting our teammates,” Johnson says, rolling around on four wheels. “And at the end of the day it's also about building community. Events like this do the same and that's what it's about—building community and having a good time.”