The fourth annual Rad Girls Award took place this past Monday, April 30th 2018, where I was nominated for Artist of the Year in Philadelphia. The finalist were narrowed down from over 300 submissions from the public, and then an anonymous committee of 15 people chose a select few to be the recipients of the award. The award was presented by it’s founder, Leah Kauffman to honor local women leaders who inspire in the fields of technology, media, culture, science and business. The Rad Girls Award is a celebration of spirited women who are constantly achieving, innovating, and inspiring. It is an ongoing conversation between empowered women.
It was thrilling to be in the same room as the other 50 diversely rad nominees from various industries, as well as the +300 attendees. I was shocked when my name was called for Artist of the Year because I’m typically behind the scenes when it comes to collaborative efforts to bring visions to life. I was also literally in the very back of the room when audible excitement and eager glances filled the space as I worked my way through the crowd towards the stage to express my gratitude.
I work as a freelance graphic designer and visual artist and I sometimes feel as though I’m in an industry that was not designed by me or for me, where I didn’t know too many other female mentors that I can look to as a reference point for where I want to be. My personal journey as an artist involves finding a place, or inventing a place, or fighting for a place. My career has included a series of place making projects from teaching art, to working on public art projects to helping others bring their goals to life.
I believe Kauffman understands the importance of the less recognized contributions that women have made in our city. The Rad Girls Award began in 2013 when Kauffman was a media executive who was in search for woman mentosr with similar workplace experiences as her. She began reaching out to women through out the city of Philadelphia for interviews and she shares her interactions for anyone else that’s interested in learning about successful and inspiring female entrepreneurs on her blog. During 2013’s Philly Tech Week Kauffman put together a panel where she expected 15 attendees to show. Instead, over 200 people showed up, which made her realize she wasn’t the only one seeking guidance from women. The first Rad Girls Award took place in 2014, and this year Kauffman also hosted her first Rad Fest Women’s Expo, a six-hour conference featuring technology, nonprofit, and media leaders on a panel offering entrepreneurial advice and strategies and sharing their experience as a global citizen. The event included an exhibition for local female-owned businesses as well.
This year some of the winners include: Dr. Katherine A. High, president and chief scientific officer of Spark Therapeutics, who developed an FDA-approved genetic treatment for a rare form of blindness that afflicts children and adults. Lara Witt, story teller of the year and writer and advocate for black women. And Stimulus founder and CEO Tiffanie Stanard, who was named Innovator of the Year. Plus many more. I think everyone who was nominated is a winner ultimately. Having our names grouped together is an invitation to visit each other’s work. The Rad Girls Award didn’t feel as though it was about competition, it is about supporting and collaboration to light one another’s torches because together, we burn brighter.
The reason the Rad Girls Award is significant is because it sends signals for what is already exemplary about Philadelphia and this award is responsible for cultural consecrations. The award offered me a degree of legitimacy among my peers and opened up more potential to continue being creative, to make more art and make new connections. What’s next for me? I am in the process of planning which course of action will harmonize what I want with what is currently possible.