Not your typical art show

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February 8, 2007

10:39 PM

If you’re curious about those risqué signs around campus, you’re not the only one. In fact, you have proven their effectiveness. The Sex Workers’ Art Show is coming to campus on Monday, Feb. 12 at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall at 7 p.m., and it guarantees to ring true to its name.

p. The Sex Workers’ Art Show is a cabaret-style production featuring nine performers who also happen to be employees or former employees of the sex industry. The artists present a live art exhibition that includes spoken word, burlesque and multimedia performances.

p. Sex-related issues and awareness of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community are addressed in the show.
Student organizers Sean Barker and Virginia Walters, both seniors, are looking to spark discussion about sex-related issues on campus. In light of recent sexual assaults, Barker and Walters hope that the show will shed a positive light on relevant and pervasive issues.

p. Barker collaborated with junior Constance Sisk last year to bring the Sex Workers’ Art Show to campus for the first time. They were contacted through unsolicited e-mails from the Sex Workers’ Art Show founder, director and self-described “den mom” Annie Oakley, whose pseudonym is a nod to a female sharp shooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, circa 1885. According to Barker, the modern day Oakley (pictured at left) was surprised and impressed with the overwhelming feedback from the College community last year. After the show, students responded with supportive essays, letters and e-mails hailing the forum for the discussion that the show sparked.

p. The College was the first Virginia institution to host the show, but the performance was set up at the last minute. “The show was less organized last year … because we had a lot of hurdles to overcome. We wanted to bring it back with more promotion and better advertising,” Barker said.

p. Barker and Walters worked diligently this year to properly publicize the event and given the advance notice, they hope to fill PBK on Monday night.

p. Seven student organizations collaborated in sponsoring the event: Lambda Alliance, VOX, From the Margin, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Initiative, Meridian Coffee House and Students for a Democratic Society.

p. Several professors are requiring students in their classes to attend the show. All students enrolled in Introduction to Women’s Studies and in music professor Sophia Serghi’s Performance Art Ensemble are among at least 100 students required to attend the show.

p. The appeal of the show is that it creates a forum for students to embrace the idea of sexual art forms and dismiss any qualms about the topic. “It’s a sex-positive event — pro-woman, pro-queer — and it brings sex issues to the forefront,” Barker said.

p. Barker noted that the question and answer session after the show last year particularly prompted discussion, and guarantees it will recur at this year’s show.

p. Be prepared for a performance that celebrates the lives of sex workers and highlights the artistry to be found in all realms of life, employment and sexual orientation. Barker described the show as one that “does not reduce anything.”

p. Tickets to the show are free and admission is open to the public.

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