LeeRay Costa, executive director of Girls Rock Roanoke, will speak on Thursday at the second of four Women Influencing the Arts series events. She will discuss the joys and challenges of transformative nonprofit arts education through her experience leading Girls Rock Roanoke, an empowerment program for girls and gender-nonconforming youth in Southwest Virginia.

Girls Rock Roanoke’s mission is to empower girls and women through music, creative expression, and collaboration as a part of the larger vision of valuing girls and women as changemakers in their own lives and communities. The organization, part of the international Girls Rock movement of more than 65 camps worldwide, is run by a small volunteer collective; a part-time, seasonal program director; and a board of directors, with a group of about 35 volunteers serving during summer camp weeks.

“Our work at Girls Rock Roanoke seeks to model processes of inclusivity and transformation, to acknowledge when we fail, and to keep striving to do better,” Costa said.

Costa will discuss the importance of bringing the inclusivity and transformation mindset to the arts field at large.

“While inclusivity is definitely about making sure that women are reflected in arts education and the arts more broadly,” she said, “it is about more than just gender. Too often discussions about increasing women’s presence and representation in any field remain grounded in unspoken assumptions of whiteness. Real inclusivity means women in all their variety — in terms of race, ethnicity, class, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, gender history, and more.”

Costa will also discuss how her organization works for girls’ empowerment and community impact. “The lessons and challenges I share,” she said, “may be instructive for folks working in a variety of areas in the arts.”

“This topic is at the core of the work I do, both as the founder and board president of Girls Rock Roanoke, and as a professor of gender and women’s studies,” said Costa, who teaches at Hollins University. “It is part of a larger movement for social justice that I hope more people will actively become engaged with.”

Costa’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Virginia Tech Women’s Center, located at 206 Washington St. Parking is limited. Use on-street parking, the Squires parking lot, the Architecture Annex parking lot, or the Kent Square parking garage.  

The Women Influencing the Arts speaker series is sponsored by the Virginia Tech Women’s Center and the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts. For more information, visit the website.

All events are free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Free reservations are available online.

Written by Donna Thompson of Blacksburg, a graduate student studying arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts.

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