Women’s Initiative launches new publication ‘Elbowroom’

Publication is part of organization’s art-centric push

Women’s Initiative launches new publication ‘Elbowroom’

Members of the Women's Initiative at a launch party for "Elbowroom" in September 2018. 

AU Student Government’s Women’s Initiative (WI) unveiled their first edition of their new publication, Elbowroom, in September.

The organization hosted a launch party on Sept. 20 at the feminist pop-up store Femme Fatale D.C. Accompanied by performances of local artists and vendor displays, Maureen Smith, director of WI, said the event was a place where AU students could express themselves and their lived experiences.

“There are people on this campus that are really talented,” Cristina Gee, Elbowroom publication coordinator, said. “I’m so lucky to have borne witness to their work.”

For the first issue, the publication had an open call for submissions and featured art that touched on subjects including queer and marginalized identities. Smith said the choice of the venue was to have a creative space off campus so students could share their personal narratives through a laptop station displaying the publication while connecting with the greater artistic community surrounding them.

Elbowroom’s mission is to “create plenty of space for individuals to express themselves and their lived experiences,” Gee said. That’s why the organization decided to name the publication Elbowroom, she said.

“It’s this feeling that a lot of us within WI have experienced ourselves, and I’m sure a lot of people on AU’s campus have, where you’re at a meeting room table, and it’s really crowded… Maybe, people are talking over each other, and it’s really tight and cramped … you don’t have enough literal elbowroom for yourself,” Gee said. “Elbowroom is about reclaiming that space, and making space to tell stories that need to be told.

In recent years, Smith said the organization has implemented a more art-centered approach to directly addressing issues of marginalization and self-expression. WI is also launching another zine, titled LUMXN, that “aims to highlight and promote intersectional womxn doing unconventional work in their communities through, healing, expression or advocacy,” according to an event page for the zine’s interest meeting on Oct. 25.

With events including the Breaking Ground Monologues each spring, the organization is creating a “uniquely creative environment,” she said.

“There’s a greater emphasis now with creativity, specifically art,” Gee said. “WI is an organization that has a long history, but expressing ourselves and our work within an art platform was definitely a creative change that has been implemented over the past couple of years.”

This July, when the pair finalized plans to create a publication, they approached the project with open minds and encouraged a wide audience to contribute, allowing the publication “to be whatever people will allow it to be.”

“At its core, Elbowroom is a publication for marginalized people to tell their stories and their experiences, but it’s also for allies as well,” Gee said. “It’s really a publication for everyone.”

Now the organization is wrapping up the second issue with the submission deadline on Oct. 24.


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