To imagine what we want the world to be, we often have to undo what we’ve been taught to see. If you are squinting your eyes in confusion (or maybe in annoyance due to that unintentional rhyme), let’s add some more lines to your thoughtful face with the words of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. Brakhage says, “Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic…” Guess what, Brakhage? New Orleans went ahead and one-upped your idea by not only imagining this concept but also letting it manifest as a brick-and-mortar structure. That structure is housed at 1109 Royal Street, and its name is Glitter Box.
In its inception, Glitter Box was a fine arts gallery, and when owner Lila Heymann and manager Alice McGillicuddy started discussing its future, they knew the space needed to retain its support of femme-makers, it’s look beyond heteronormative concepts of gender, and they also wanted it to interact with and involve the community even more. If Glitter Box had an overarching theme, it would be inclusivity. As McGillicuddy says, “We wanted the focus [of Glitter Box] to be on celebration, not exclusion,” and they do stand by the point that “Your feminism is not functional unless it’s intersectional.”
This means that the once gallery space now houses objects and creations from dozens of femme-makers, it holds community events–ranging from self-defense classes to indigo dye workshops (where you even get a complimentary pair of granny panties)–and it supports social justice groups, including giving 10% of all sales to nonprofits that seek to promote the education and empowerment of women in New Orleans and beyond. In the past months, Glitter Box has worked with both Happy Period Start and the Texas Diaper Bank, and this month they are teaming up Girl Code NOLA, which was started by local 16-year-old high school student Kennedi Carter and is focused on story-telling, writing, and positively affecting and empowering young women. Glitter Box keeps their eyes open for current issues and events where they can not only lend their specific support but also help web the community together in the name of assistance.
What threads together all of these endeavors is the focus on the ‘femme-maker,’ a term that Glitter Box uses as a benchmark for the art they display and the artists they support. They have a specific goal tied to that phrase, and it is one of inclusivity. “[Femme-makers] includes transgender, queer, and non-binary folks, who are significantly female identified,” McGillicuddy explains. “In an ideal world, the future would be genderless, and everyone would be cared for and protected according to their own individual spirit, but until then, we are specifically trying to protect things that are deemed ‘feminine.'”
The concept of “feminine,” however, is not reserved for those biologically labeled as women. “Everyone has that [feminine] in them,” McGillicuddy enthusiastically states with a smile, and since the feminine is amazing, “You don’t have to explain why they have to be celebrated.”
In a world where inequity between the sexes seems to grow from every crack and crevice, with a definite presence in the art world, Glitter Box aims to undo that sight. New Orleans can be “…an incredibly inclusive environment,” McGillicuddy says, and Glitter Box builds on that spirit and vibrancy in order to help an imagined world come to fruition.
Embracing the local community and having a presence on Royal Street offers a tangible view of what could be in the future. McGillicuddy remembers one of the first times she realized the impact that Glitter Box has on even the passerby. “In the first few months, I overheard a younger girl outside walking by,” McGillicuddy recalls. “She peeked her head in and said, ‘Is that place real?’ If we want to have a future that’s different than the world is now, then we have to think of things unreal in order to make them possible. Let’s make things that seem unreal.”
For all of us who set our feet to walking on Royal Street, we can see the unreal come to life. It’s right there under the sign that says Glitter Box.
Glitter Box will be holding the Little Feral Macrame Plant Hanger Workshop on October 16 as well as having the Girl Code Launch Party: Femmpowerment Story Hour and Donation Drive for Covenant House on October 19. To learn more about Glitter Box as well as know about their upcoming events, you can check them out on their website as well as follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.