Womanish: How Two Sisters Created Space for Women
When you think of space, sometimes it's a mental or emotional thing; something to hold for someone. Other times, it's a literal room to exist in. But these two sisters have taken it one step further, and created both. Meet Danyelle and Dionna Gray, co-founders of the Womanish exhibit, "a playful and thought-provoking art exhibition" produced by women exploring expressions of identity & perspectives through visual & physical exhibitions & interactive experiences. Now standing in both Chicago and Miami, Womanish is doing the important work of connecting people across the country, creating safe spaces for women everywhere.
We are grateful for the opportunity to interview the creators of Womanish, and they shared with us their struggles and surprises, all of which made this unique exhibition possible.
1. Did you always work/ create together in your lives, or is this a more recent thing?
It’s been for the last 10 years!
Dionna called me in my sophomore year of college with an idea to create an app for women. Ever since then we have been on this entrepreneurial journey together!
2. How did Womanish come to be? What initially sparked it all?
As previously mentioned, Dionna reached out to me (Danyelle) with an idea to create a social networking app specifically for women. That took us down a long rabbit hole! We worked on that project for 6 long years. Our problem was we were trying to be perfectionists. Never really released it to the public, and just had an array of problems with that app. So we finally decided to move on. We had to regroup and figure out what we were good at. I have been doing events for the past 10 years, and was curious what was happening in the industry. Experiential was on the rise! So we thought about transforming our idea from an app to an actual exhibit. We wanted to create a safe space and community for women in a physical location rather than online! As entrepreneurs, you will always have to pivot!
3. What did you have to go through to bring this project to fruition? Any noteworthy obstacles?
Whew! Quite a lot! The biggest obstacle was definitely funding the exhibit. Dionna and I are two young, black women. Historically, it is extremely hard for women of color to secure funding for businesses. That was our biggest obstacle. However, we are big believers in God and faith, and He was able to really open some amazing doors for us.
Also, Covid-19 of course was a humongous obstacle. We were slated to launch March 2020, we had this idea the year before with no idea that would be the worst month we could have picked! We had to wait 6 months to open, and at many points of time we did not even know if we ever were! It was a blessing we were able to, and just been an exciting ride ever since!
4. The term "womxn" is used throughout the website. What made you choose to incorporate this into your mission?
We wanted to make sure we were inclusive of everyone who identifies as a womxn. Our exhibit is an all inclusive safe space for any and everyone!
5. I saw that all are welcome to your exhibits. How have men been reacting to the experience, both in person and online? Any educational breakthroughs you've noticed?
Men’s reactions have been overall pretty positive. Dad’s have taken daddy daughter dates, which has been so amazing to see!
Also, just talking to couple’s who come in, and their boyfriend’s thanking us for showcasing information they never knew about like the pink tax, and just how deep the gender pay gap is. It sparks conversation for all the men who come in. It’s very awesome to see!
6. What came out of this project so far that you're most grateful for?
Definitely the relationships and partnerships! It’s so awesome to be connected and collaborate with so many awesome women groups! For instance, we partnered with SWIMM Miami who wrote poems for all of the rooms in our exhibit and are doing a live showcase for them! We get to work with groups we admire, organizations and more and just highlight awesome women groups within our space. It’s been a dream!
To learn more about Womanish, click here.
Follow on Instagram: @womanishexperience
Photos provided by contributors.