Oboist Laura Medisky, left, and the flutist Iva Ugrčić are co-founders and co-directors of the LunART Festival.

The flutist Iva Ugrčić said that she’s long picked up on how women get unequal treatment in the arts. She said it felt particularly acutely when she lived in Serbia, her home country, and later in Paris, France, where she constantly felt labels thrust upon her.

“I was a woman — and then I was a woman from Eastern Europe with a thick accent,” she said.

After arriving in Madison to pursue her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014, she said she felt empowered to do something about those inequalities: In 2018, she launched the LunART Festival, an event that celebrates and shines a light on women in the arts.

“It seemed like the right place and the right time to start something like this,” she said. “I felt finally not labeled (in Madison). I felt empowered as a woman, more than in Europe ... but I know there are still women in the arts that are fighting for their positions.”

The second annual LunART Festival is a five-day affair peppered with visual art exhibits, panel discussions, poetry readings, concerts and comedy across eight Madison venues, begins on Wednesday and lasts through Sunday.

Ugrčić, who co-directs the festival along with the oboist Laura Medisky, said that the event carves out a space for women who are frequently overlooked. 

“There are so many women in music. But people don’t talk about or perform their works,” she said. “We are now drawing attention to them. Like, hey, look at this amazing work.”

This year’s festival, Ugrčić said, will be very similar to last year’s inaugural event, only with a broader array of arts in the mix. It brings together artists from both Madison and the broader U.S., and even one composer from Peru.

The festival kicks off with an opening reception for an art exhibition at the Overture Center called “Women Against Hate United By Love,” featuring art by Kelly Parks Snider, Rachael Griffin and J. Leigh Garcia, all of whom live in or previously lived in Madison. The project — described by its organizers as part traveling art exhibition, part “multi-step 'anti-hate' campaign“ — has an expressed mission of dismantling bigotry and oppression through the sharing of stories.

The festival also features three “gala concerts” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights that highlight musical composition, dance and art by women. Each concert will include pieces by three composers who were selected from among 98 applicants who submitted their work to the festival as part of its Call for Scores competition.

Each gala concert will also feature a performance of work by the fest’s composer-in-residence Valerie Coleman.

“She has this beautiful mix of Afro-Cuban rhythm and jazz,” said Ugrčić, of the Grammy-nominated composer. “Her music is very groovy.”

Thursday will feature a master class led by Coleman, who will provide feedback and insight for emerging composers who have submitted their works for the event. The six composers who participate in the master class will also perform their works in a concert at the Capitol Lakes Grand Hall on Saturday.

LunART also features talks on topics pertinent to women and art. Before Thursday’s gala concert at the Overture Center, Meaghan Heinrich, the chair of the Woodwind, Brass & Percussion Department at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, will give a talk on how the experience of being a woman in the 21st century shapes art. A panel on Saturday morning at the Madison Public Library’s Central Branch will tackle “the ongoing trend and need for artists to wear multiple hats to succeed and thrive.”

Other LunART events include a night of standup comedy at Robinia Courtyard on Friday, bringing together six comics from around the Midwest, many of whom have participated in the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival held annually in Madison. Sunday will also feature a poetry reading and artist mixer to close the festival called “Mooning Around” at Common Ground Restaurant in Middleton on Sunday.

Ugrčić said that one positive of last year’s event was the creation of new artistic collaborations and projects between artists who meet at LunART. One example she highlighted: The ARTemis Women's Choir, which will perform at the Gaia concert scheduled for Saturday night, led by Edgewood College’s Kathleen Otterson.

“A new choir was born (at LunART). That’s incredible. They’re going into their second season with us,” she said.

A full schedule of events can be found online at LunART’s website.

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Erik Lorenzsonn is the Capital Times' tech and culture reporter. He joined the team in 2016, after having served as an online editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and having written for publications like The Progressive Magazine and The Poughkeepsie Journal.