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Kate Bailey, founder of Tarra, wants to level the playing field for women in creative industries.

Best Bets: Tarra 2017 Celebrates Creative Women

The two-day summit and networking event's theme is "The Politics of Design."

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A few years ago, Kate Bailey started noticing something odd: The magazines and articles she was reading—architectural and fashion publications, among others—were all male-dominated. And the former writer, editor, and marketing executive’s friends would confess to difficulties breaking in or moving up in their fields. “I noticed [my friends] were struggling from a business standpoint,” Bailey says. “They just didn’t have the personality and/or the knowledge base, that education piece and that confidence, to be able to really market themselves and to go after the awards and…the press.”

So Bailey decided she’d start leveling the playing field herself. Tarra (named after a Buddhist goddess who represents “virtuous and enlightened activity” and is thought to be an early feminist) launched in 2016 as an online magazine for and about women in creative industries. (Bailey hopes to add a print publication at some point.) Last October, Bailey hosted the first Tarra summit; around 500 people attended. “A lot of what needs to be fixed is women’s confidence, and how they value themselves, and how they market themselves, and how they are given the tools and the education and the resources they need to raise up,” Bailey says. “We’re not trying to empower them. We’re giving them the tools they don’t have right now to do that.”

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Women—and men—can access those tools this month at the second-annual Tarra summit, which takes place October 20-21 in Denver. This year’s theme: the politics of design. This isn’t an event focused on the traditional definition of politics. Rather, the goal is to address how politics affects the design of a city and the way we live—and, conversely, how design impacts people (think: refugee shelters that actually invoke a sense of place, a sense of home). “We can use design to create meaningful change in the world,” Bailey says. “[The event is for] those who are curious about how we can harness creativity to change the world.”

Leading those conversations will be five innovative women, speaking at the main event on Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. They are Meg Vazquez (the lead designer for social media and rapid response for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign); Mandy Vink (public art coordinator for Boulder’s Office of Arts + Culture); Tariana Navas-Nieves (director of cultural affairs at Denver Arts & Venues); photojournalist Kirsten Leah Bitzer; and Marianne B. Holbert (associate director of the Program in Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder). Each woman will give a seven-minute talk, and there will be a Q&A session with everyone afterward.

Your brain will get some downtime, too. Studio Night, held at RedLine on Friday evening, is a nontraditional networking event: Rather than wearing name tags and awkwardly approaching strangers to ask them what they do for a living, attendees will work together to paint a 20-foot mural—while eating pizza. Dress is casual, and Bailey hopes the conversation will be more organic but no less meaningful.

A pop-up shop featuring 12 Colorado artisans—everything from hand-poured candles to jewelry to ceramics—will also be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Source.

If you want to continue your relationship with Tarra after the summit, you’re in luck. More educational workshops and collaborations with local organizations, as well as a membership option, are expected to launch in 2018. Bailey also hopes to expand the mission beyond Denver.

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The overall goal isn’t to talk more about female furniture makers or women architects, Bailey says. “[It’s] talking about them as being a designer, being an architect—what they are instead of having that woman piece added to it. I want to talk about what women are contributing to the world because that’s how we level the playing field.”

Purchase tickets to Tarra 2017 here. Friday’s event runs from 5–8:30 p.m. and costs $25. Doors open for Saturday’s keynote ($35) at 5 p.m. Tarra 2017 is co-sponsored by 5280 Home.

Daliah Singer, 5280 Contributor

Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.

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