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MUSE Worthy 

Year Two of Bend's Bigger Better Women's Conference

Last month, the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, an international effort to correct the heavy male bias in Wikipedia pages, created over 100 new entries for women in just 24-hours, and bulked up the collective knowledge with a more complete gender representation. Reading the lineup for Bend's second annual Muse conference feels like the organizers are trying to do something similar for Central Oregon: Expose a long list of esteemed women on a local, national and global scale to Bend in a three-day bender of inspiration.

Inarguably, activist and author Zainab Salbi has an empowering story. Born and raised in Baghdad, Salbi was a firsthand witness of war (her father was a personal pilot for Saddam Hussein and she spent her childhood amid conflict between Iran and Iraq). After moving to the United States at the age of 19, further tragedy spurred Salbi's overwhelming passion for helping others, a drive that has rendered her a well recognized voice for contemporary women's issues in regions of the world that are regularly ignored. Women for Women International, the organization she started and served as CEO of until 2011, has provided job training for more than 300,000 women, focusing on war-torn countries.

Salbi and fellow keynote speakers Amy Richards, the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, and Lynne Twist, humanitarian and activist for eliminating global poverty and hunger, will more than fill up the stage for Bend's second MUSE Women's Conference. The conference is three days, an evening of art, a full day of panels and presentations at the Tower Theatre, followed by a day of summit workshops where presenters and attendees can exchange ideas and experiences.

"It's a shot of inspiration locally and globally," explained organizer Amanda Stuermer. "This is a way to look at ways to create positive social change. We look at our lives and say, 'How can I make a difference?' "

Last year at the inaugural conference, Tererai Trent closed the event's presentations with a powerful recount of her unlikely education and success story, making her way from a mistreated lower-class woman in Zimbabwe to a Ph. D educated activist who, with the help of Oprah Winfrey, opened an equal opportunity school for boys and girls in her home village. Her speech left not a dry eye in the house.

MUSE also has gathered local artists and activists to compliment these global ideas with homegrown perspective. "Connection is something we're focusing on with the conference, how do we bring in people in the community and connect them around a common mission?"

After last year's conference, Sarah McMurray received one of the four small grants given by MUSE's umbrella non-profit. This year, she will showcase the fruits of that grant through her writing and photography project. On Friday, McMurray and 11 other female artists will take over shops downtown during the First Friday art walk (other grant projects included work with women with eating disorders and yoga therapy, and a book that helps young children understand cancer). McMurray's black and white photographs based on body image will display at Bluebird Coffee downtown.

"It was a writing workshop with 20 women telling their body stories. All the things that happened in their life: hitting puberty, growing up, being pregnant, aging, all the things that happen to a woman's body," explained McMurray. "They wrote stuff that felt negative, and the brave ones modeled for me for the exhibit. I took a photo of them feeling really confident about their body image and their story."

McMurray's project reflects this year's "Take a Stand" theme, and meshes overall with the priorities of the conference, to build and rebuild confidence for women and girls, offer outlets for story sharing and connecting with social change projects, and introduce a new vernacular of powerful, insightful women to Central Oregon.

Friday March 7 | Kick-off Party and First Friday Art Walk

Jill Rosell | MUSE gathering and Kick-off party| Oxford

Kaycee Anseth & Katie Daisy | Kariella Clothes Shop

Gretchen Raynak & Shelley Anderson | Feather's Edge Finery

Theresa Weil | Hot Box Betty

Kristina Cyr | Lulu's Bend

Lisa Sipe | Footzone

Megan McGuinness | OutsideIn

Amy Castaño | Cowgirl Cash

Sheila Dunn | Velvet

Alicia Vernon, Taylor Rose, Meryl Turner, McKenzie Mendel Jewelry & Brittaney Toles | Bhuvana

Caroline Cornell |

Crow's Feet Commons

Sarah McMurray | Bluebird Coffee

Saturday March 8 | Presentations

9:30 am. Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St. $75, $45 for students.

Tickets available at

Sunday March 9 | Workshops

Various locations. $35 each.

Full schedule at muse


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