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Support Sarahfest

Raised toward our $2,500 Goal
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Project ended on May 07, at 11:15 AM CDT
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Support Sarahfest!

Celebrate 40 Years of Women’s Studies at UM by Giving Back to the Sarah Isom Center’s Annual Festival

In 2004, a group of Gender Studies students decided to put theory into practice and organized a one-day festival to celebrate women musicians and writers at Two Stick, a sushi restaurant just off the Oxford Square. They called the event Sarahfest, in honor of Sarah McGehee Isom, the first female faculty member at the University of Mississippi and the namesake of its Isom Center. While the festival was a success, a new Isom Center director arrived that fall, the students graduated, Two Stick closed and Sarahfest became a memory, albeit a good one.  

A little more than a decade later, the Isom Center’s leadership and a group of students revived Sarahfest with the goal of providing a community celebration of women’s contributions. The 2015 Sarahfest – the first since 2004’s one-day event – had 12 events at locations around campus and in Oxford, featuring nationally renowned musicians, artists and writers. Every year since, Sarahfest has expanded, showcasing women and the LGBTQ+ community in the fine and performing arts, literature, documentary photography, podcasting and filmmaking.

The growth of Sarahfest from a one-day event at a local restaurant to a major fixture on the Mississippi arts calendar could not have happened without the support of generous donors. For Sarahfest 2021 to be a success, we are calling on those of you who value the Isom Center's work to step up yet again.  

Your support helped sustain the Isom Center throughout 2020, when the global pandemic forced us to completely reimagine what an arts festival could be. With the help of donors and our campus and community partners, Sarahfest 2020 kicked off in October with virtual concerts and lectures, an online film screening and Q&A with the director and an outdoor art exhibit. To expand on our theme of "Connecting Communities," we created and distributed packets of free postcards showcasing the work of our digital visual artists from our art show.

In fall 2021, Sarahfest will combine the best parts of a traditional, in-person festival with the remote access used to connect us all in 2020. Donor support is critical to the success of Sarahfest 2021. 

At its heart, Sarahfest is a commitment to exposing our students and the larger community to a diverse and exciting mix of performers and would not be possible without incredible campus and community partnerships. In particular, Living Music Resource and the Department of Music, the University Museum and Rowan Oak, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and Powerhouse Community Arts Center, Proud Larry’s, the Lyric Oxford, Thacker Mountain Radio, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement have helped the Isom Center expand cultural opportunities to University of Mississippi students, faculty, staff and alumni as well as the Oxford-Lafayette community.             

Since 2015, the Isom Center Fund for Visiting Artists, supported by you and other donors, has provided essential resources for Sarahfest. Please consider a gift to the fund today to ensure that Sarahfest will continue to enrich our University and community by presenting exciting and diverse artists. 

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Sarahfest's Humble Beginning

As many good things do, Sarahfest started small, thanks to the efforts of a few gender studies students who wanted to celebrate women in the arts. Sarahfest has come a long way since the first festival in 2004, which was held at a local sushi restaurant and mostly featured community talent. While Oxford artists, musicians and writers are still a big part of today's festival, Sarahfest takes place over many days and attracts talented people from far and wide.


Sarah Isom Center: 40 Years

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies was established at the University of Mississippi in 1981 to address the changing roles and expectations of women students, faculty and staff. Dr. Joanne V. Hawks served as the founding director of the Sarah Isom Center from 1981 to 1998. Since that time, the Center and an academic program in gender studies have been led by faculty members across disciplines. The current director is Dr. Jaime Harker, a professor of English.


Women at the Flagship

When UM opened its doors to women in 1882, 11 women registered for classes; one of these became the valedictorian of her class. Please give to honor these trailblazers and celebrate 139 years of women at the flagship institution of higher education in Mississippi.


Sarahfest at Rowan Oak

One of the favorite events at past Sarahfests, sorely missed in 2020, has been the concerts on the lawn at Rowan Oak. These events were free, open to everyone in the community and attended by students, professors, staff and local families. Please consider a gift of $300 in honor of the three Rowan Oak concerts of Sarahfest and help ensure those magical nights happen again in the future!


From One Day to Weeklong

In 2015, Sarahfest was revived with 12 events stretching over a week. A concert at Rowan Oak was headlined by the likes of Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. The fest also featured nationally renowned authors such as Megan Abbott, artists including a photography exhibit from UM journalism professor Alysia Burton Steele, and performances by local musicians. The 2015 fest was capped by a fundraising concert headlined by Neko Case. 2015 marked an explosive revival of one of the area's favorite events.

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