The Womxn Project, is a grassroots art and activism organization that was founded around a kitchen table in 2017 to fight for abortion rights and reproductive health care. It’s now a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to building a strong movement that harnesses the power of art, activism and advocacy to improve people’s lives. The organization’s mission is to dismantle oppression by raising the voices of impacted people in communities throughout Rhode Island in order to shape legislative policy and build the power to win lasting changes. The Womxn Project embodies the principles of reproductive justice, cultivating innovation, and advancing durable change through creative approaches.
Recently, co-founders Jordan Hevenor and Jocelyn Foye shared their experiences building power through art at the Arts & Education for Social Justice Symposium 2023. The presentation titled: Artivism and Politics: How a State was Moved highlighted how The Womxn Project used a community build art project – a quilt – to mobilize a state and protect the right to abortion, an issue not typically associated with art.
The Womxn Project’s Community Petition Quilt launched in the summer of 2017. Over 2,000 Rhode Islanders signed a quilt square over two years and dozens of volunteers from around the state came together in sewing bees to create and piece together the quilt panels. The quilt was regularly displayed in the Capitol to represent the thousands of Rhode Islanders who support more robust abortion rights in the state, which although controlled by Democrats had an anti-abortion Senate President and anti-abortion Speaker of the House.
The Womxn Project’s quilt was a key symbol of the investment and commitment that built a network and a base of activists in that state. Today, those activists continue to work on expanding access to reproductive health care by including abortion access for Medicaid recipients and state workers in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island, the most Catholic state in the Union, is moving in the right direction on abortion care while over a dozen other states are going the opposite way. But lessons learned from normalizing abortion and leveraging creative tactics like art in Rhode Island, can apply anywhere to help community activists build power and transform communities.