Saturday, November 4, 2017

Social Activist, Photographer and Publisher JERI ROGERS Gives the Oppressed the Power and Medicine of ART through ARTEMIS JOURNAL . . .

Chris Rice Cooper 

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**The links along with the names of the persons/organizations are at the end of the piece in alphabetical order.  Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

Art For The Sake of Women
*In 1976, Social Activist and Photographer Jeri Rogers was the director of the Women’s Center of Roanoke, Virginia.  Many of these women were victims of poverty and violence.  She gave them the strongest weapon ever – Art.  As a result Artemis Journal was founded in 1977 and thrives to this very day.

Social rights activist and photographer Jeri Rogers, who at the time was the director of the Women’s Center in Roanoke, Virginia, founded Artemis Journal, a journal of feminist poetry and art.  Rogers offered creative workshops for these women as a form of therapy.  The women’s artwork and writing made up the first issue of Artemis Journal in 1976 with cover art by New York City artist Dorothy Gillespie.(Image Above Right; Dorothy Gillespie Below Left)

“This image (by Dorothy Gillespie) then had a life of its own and became the first downtown mural painted in Roanoke, Virginia. The "Celebration of Women artists and Writers" launched the journal and we went on to publish a small press for over 20 years.” Jeri Rogers said.
In 2000 Rogers quit the journal in order to focus on her photography career, to work on her graduate degree , but more importantly, to focus on her husband and their three children Jackson, Jared and daughter, writer Jennifer Brody.  Right Jeri and husband Jonathan  at Big Sur, California 

In 2014 Rogers and Literary Editor Maurice Ferguson who also worked with Rogers (left)  on Artemis Journal since 1977, decided to bring the journal back to life.  Artemis Journal’s main purpose is to foster art and literary excellence in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of Southwest Virginia and beyond.  

  The Artemis Journal team are Jeri Rogers, Founder and Editor; Poet Maurice Ferguson, Literary Editor; Virginia Lepley, Art & Layout Editor; Jane Goette, Associate Editor (Right Above); Sheree Scarborough, Associate Editor (Right Below); Jonathan Rogers, Board Advisor; ; Crystal Founds, Marketing Director (Below Left); and Artemis is grateful to the Roanoke Arts Commission and Taubman Museum of Art for their support  (Above Top).  
The theme for the rebirth of the journal, 2014 Artemis Journal  (Below) was “Our connection to nature," and featured guest writer, Nikki Giovanni and guest artist, photographer Sam Krisch.

The theme for the 2015 Artemis Journal (Below) was “The courage of our convictions,” and featured guest writer Beth Macy (author of Factory Man), and guest artist painter Bill White.

The 2016 Artemis Journal (Below) featured guest writer, Poet Laureate Ron Smith, and guest artist Roanoke Sculptor, Betty Branch.

The 2017 Artemis Journal (Below) featured acclaimed poet, Nikki Giovanni and guest artist, Tricia Scott.

The theme for the 2018 Artemis Journal  (Below) is “Women hold up half the sky” with guest writer Sharyn McCrumb, the New York Times best selling author of The Unquiet Grave. 


Chris Rice Cooper conducted a scripted interview with Jeri Rogers via Facebook, Email, and phone from September 9, 2017 to November 3, 2017.
You started your career as a fashion model and then a photographer.  Can you talk about how you first fell in love with photography and how that love of photography led you to helping women and then to the creation of Artemis?

I actually started playing with photography in college at the University of Texas at El Paso. I began with a twin lens Reflex 2 ¼ camera; however, my interest in photography began long before that.  
When I was eight or nine years old, my father, Jack Cox (right), introduced me to photography by showing me the black and white photos he had taken for four years as an Air Force pilot, fighting in World War 11.

After graduating from college I went to New York City with ambitions to move to Europe, but I became involved in the city and began modeling to support myself. While modeling, I met Carl Shiraski, a professional photographer who became a close friend and encouraged me to continue learning the profession. Modeling gave me a great opportunity to see photographers in action, and I began seriously studying the art from a modeling perspective. Above Left Photo of Jeri attributed to Carl Shiraski

Can you give me a bit of your background career-wise, particularly to what led you to create Artemis in 1977?
As I left New York City, I was searching for my true passion. I taught Social Studies, worked with The Committee on Foreign Affairs in Washington DC, and hosted a local television show called, “The Morning Movie.” I had finally made a decision to follow my dream of photography, and my television job allowed me to.  I spent afternoons photographing and developing my work in the basement darkroom of the Fine Arts Center in Roanoke, VA. I was on my way…(Above Right Jeri at age 21)
During that time, I was told that a Women’s Counseling Center was opening in Roanoke and I was approached to consider applying to be the Director. It was, apparently, well known by then that I am a feminist to the core. I had become radicalized in college during the 60’s when the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. I had read “Second Sex” written in 1949 by Simone de Beauvoir, giving a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism. Ms. Beauvoir’s made a profound impact on me, and helped me formulate my personal philosophy on feminism.  
What is your personal philosophy on feminism?
I am a feminist and believe women are equal to men and contributed a great deal to our society.  Throughout history, there has always been a power struggle between the sexes and races. It has been a long road, after all women got the right to vote in 1920 after black men.  At least we are not burning women at the stake!

Whatever strides we have made we should remember to thank the women who throughout our history have fought tirelessly to give us a voice. Thanks to Susan B. Anthony for pushing the right to vote, Maud Wood Park for prenatal care and identity outside your husband, Elizabeth Stanton for the right to work, Margaret Sanger for the right to legal birth control, Eleanor Roosevelt and Molly Dewson for the right to work in politics and make policy, Carol Downer for reproductive health care, Malala Yousafzai for pushing the rights of young women internationally, Rosa Parks for not backing down on the bus, Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her holding up the rights of
women on the Supreme Court, Gloria Steinem for her lifetime commitment to equal rights and our mothers and grandmothers who stood before us with half the rights we now have as women.
Today we can make our own choices, vote, work, control our bodies and vote because of the women who have marched before us throughout history. Reaping the benefits of the strong women who pushed patriarchy and fought misogyny create the status we as women are fortunate to have. These strides are very fragile and with the current President and Congress in power, women’s rights are in grave danger.
This is why we chose the theme “Women hold up half the sky” for next year’s journal. Artemis began from writing workshops for abused women and has continued to support and celebrate women throughout our history with art and writing.

How did you first get acquainted with social activism?
I grew up in Ysleta, a small town in southwest Texas. My father was a principal in the public school district there, and the majority of the population consisted of Tigua Indians, Mexicans, and African Americans. I was clearly in the minority, and it gave me a wide perspective on diversity and equality.
My father’s attitude and sense of social justice also had a profound influence on me. He was always very committed to the underdog, and as a principal of Loma Terrace Elementary School (Left Jack Cox) , he made sure that the poorer students had a free breakfast and lunch. He was also instrumental in getting the Tigua Indians recognized as an official tribe by the Federal Government. In fact, during a contest in 1946 to name a growing small town in southwest Texas, my father submitted the name “Tigua” in honor of the tribe. The name won; and the tribe got Federal recognition, which led to financial relief, helping them rebuild their community.  The tribe flourished by building a square in the middle of town with an open fireplace to bake bread and hold traditional Indian ceremonial dances. The small Tigua Indian tribe was revitalized as the town became a popular tourist destination.

I became socially active during my college years. The 60’s were a difficult time to come of age with the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and assassinations of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I put myself through college, graduating with a degree in Political Science. 
        One of my many part time jobs was with at Texas Western College, where I tutored many of the African American athletes who helped defeat the top-ranked University of
Kentucky all-white basketball team for the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball championship on March 19, 1966. They won 72-65 in front of an essentially all-white crowd, including the referees. (Above Left)Texas Western was the first college team ever to start five African Americans in any basketball game. It was great!
I remember one of my students, a track athlete, who began to go blind due to a degenerative illness. Texas Western attempted to cancel his financial aid. I approached the administration and asked them to reconsider their attempt to deny the student his aid. With the help of several professors who joined in the cause, we convinced the college to continue his scholarship and he was able to complete his college degree. Now, I knew that I was a social activist, and that I could be a force for justice.  (Above Right - Jeri Rogers Self Portrait)

And how did this social activism lead you to start a writing workshop for T.A. P. and the YWCA Women’s Center?
In order to take the job at the Women’s Center, (Left) Bristow Hardin, the head of TAP (Total Action Against Poverty), offered me a grant to do a photographic study on mountain women, as well as Director of the Women's Resource Center. It was a deal I couldn’t refuse, because I could have my cake and eat it too. I found my voice and mission along the way; because, the truth is, I had experienced abuse in my own relationships, and now I was being given the opportunity to heal myself and others.  It was a wonderful experience for me and I’m truly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work with such amazing people dedicated to social change.
My first year as Director of the Women’s Center, I photographed all kinds of women in southwest Virginia, culminating in a black/white photography show at the Fine Arts Center entitled “Season of Women.” (Right Jeri's image of Elizabeth McCommon) It was a great success with an overflow crowd at the opening. I was very pleased, and I felt more inspired than ever to use multi-media art as a tool for social awareness.
At the end of the Center’s first year, the 1975 TAP Annual Report said, “In its first year of operation the Women’s Center assisted 2,195 women with problems ranging from physical abuse at home to housing, from assertiveness training to getting food stamps, from finding employment to dealing with alcoholism (and drug) abuse - their own or their partner’s or husband’s.”
Ted Edlich, retired CEO of TAP wrote in his book Navigating the Non Profit Rapids that “Under Jeri’s leadership, the Women’s Center developed the first twenty-four-hour counseling program for women fleeing domestic violence in the Roanoke Valley and, with the help of the Brambleton Women’s Club, the first residential safe haven for victims of domestic violence.”

Can you go into great detail of the origin of Artemis from its conception in the your mind until the beginning of its 14-year hiatus?(below - attributed to Carl Larsson)
During the first year we opened the Women’s Center, many of the women artists and writers became my photographic subjects. I thought it might be a good idea to start writing workshops for our abused clients, and asked these writers to volunteer to lead the workshops.
I had been influenced by the wonderful French writer, Anis Nin, (Right)who kept extensive journals, and so I always kept a journal myself. I thought that since it was cathartic for me, journal writing and sharing in supportive groups might be effective for others. Everyone liked the idea, so we started weekly writing workshops in the basement of the YWCA, led by some excellent writers, like Valerie Nash, Dara Weir (Below Left), and Natalie Shefler.
We started to notice a remarkable change in our clients; they were becoming more vocal and open and their writing started to bloom. So, I thought it would be a good idea to have a feminist journal to highlight their writings and promote the programs at the Women’s Center; and that’s how Artemis began.

Who thought of the name Artemis?
I have practiced meditation since my early twenties. One even-
ing while meditating under the moonlight on my apple farm on Bent Mountain, the inspiration came to me to name the journal after the Greek goddess, Artemis. I thought she was a perfect choice.
Here’s a quote from the 2015 Artemis journal describing Artemis; “Artemis, namesake of this journal and goddess of light, (Right Jeri in front of Artemis statue at the Louve)
had the divine duty of illuminating the darkness. Often she is depicted carrying a candle or torch, lighting the way for others and leading them through territories yet unchartered. 
(Above Left attributed to Anton Raphael Mengs)
Known as the chaste Greek goddess associated with the moon and hunt, her connection with the natural world symbolized her own untamed spirit, and she became the patron saint of childbirth, protector of wild animals, virgins and the powerless. Her illumination lends inspiration to the theme of this edition, courage of our convictions, shedding light into the unknown and supporting us with her courage and strength.” And so, Artemis it is!

How long have you and Maurice Ferguson (Below left) known each other?  How did the two of you meet?  And can you describe your 20- year professional relationship with Maurice? Perhaps even memories of the two of you working for Artemis?
I’ve actually known Maurice for more than 30 years, starting in the 80’s when he joined our Artemis Board of Directors and became an editor for our journals.  He was one of our first men to join in our mission of creating a journal and art events. As a dedicated writer I greatly admire his editing skills and Artemis Journal would not be possible without his dedication and keen editing skills. We’ve done so many things together for Artemis - from meetings, book sales, car washes, flea markets, poetry readings, and art shows to the actual planning and publishing of our journals. He’s a dedicated poet and editor to whom I am grateful beyond words for his part in the success of our collective, and much-loved, work.

Can you describe the environment of the office of Artemis in great detail?  
I work out of a studio on top of the barn on our farm in Floyd, Virginia. (Right)  My office has vaulted ceilings and tall windows that overlook our pastures and the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.
I live on Little River Farm with my husband, Jonathan Rogers, attorney and part-time judge, along with our horses and Dante, our golden retriever. I am a horse lover and working there keeps me close to their energy. I often refer to our farm as the “doorstep to heaven” with acres of trails and scenic beauty that skirts the Little River. (Left view of the  horses from the Rogers Home).

What was the typical workday at Artemis like for you?
I typically start my day there after doing yoga, walking my dog, and meditating. The studio’s vibrant southwest colors remind me of my love for where I was born and raised; and it’s filled with my photographic artwork, Artemis journals, and creative potential.  (Above Right Jeri with her dog Dante)
I spend at least 2-3 hours a day working on Artemis, and usually speak with Maurice about the submissions we are receiving.  We have a fantastic art and layout editor, Virginia Lepley (Above left with Maurice Ferguson), and I try to keep up with her as well. We each work out of our own home, communicating via email and phone, and occasionally we meet in person.

In 1980 Artemis switched its focus from feminist all female writing to males.  What led to this?
In 1980, a male poet submitted a poem by changing his name from “Robert” to “Roberta,” and so, needless to say, we thought he was a woman. When we realized who it was, it was a shock, but it woke us up to the fact that there are many great men around who support our cause, and that it was time to open our journal to male authors and artists. It was an opportunity for us to become more inclusive; and it’s been great to have men involved in Artemis as well.

What caused the hiatus?  And the date of the last issue?
The last journal in year 2000 was spearheaded by Ann Weinstein who served as President of the Board from 1988 to 1991 and then oversaw the final issue in the year 2000 (Above Left) I resigned from the Board of Directors of Artemis in the year 2000 to do graduate work at Hollins University.  My graduate thesis was a video on Social service programs for men who abuse women.   "Wounded Sky" was picked up by the local PBS station WBRA and aired on TV the same year I received my graduate degree.  

What led to the reunion to publish Artemis again?
There were several of us who were involved in the first go around with Artemis and we missed the journal. Judy Ayylidiz, Maurice Ferguson and myself were involved in the discussions and I finally decided to bring the journal back. (* Above Right Photo description at the end of this piece)
At the same time I had met Virginia Lepley (Left) here in Floyd at a Chinese Martial Arts class I was taking and through our practice together we found out that we both had a love for producing literary journals. She had done so in high school and as a graphic artist who had just moved down from New York City, Virginia had experience with production of design projects in her ad agency in New York City. All the pieces came together with each person’s skills and the three of us joined forces and began the process of bringing back Artemis.  
Judy Ayylidiz (Right)  was president of the Board of Directors for several years and gave us her ideas and support.  Judy supports Artemis with her poetry and reading at our poetry events, most notably the annual Fall Poetry Reading held each year at Hollins University.

How is Artemis today different or similar from Artemis before the hiatus?
There are now only three of us that put the journal together. For many years we had a large Board of Directors, which was fantastic, but very time consuming. I decided if I was going to do this again, I would have to be very mindful of time management as I have other projects in the works along with a busy lifestyle. One of our enhancements was to very consciously bring Artemis back by incorporating principles of sacred geometry to highlight the vast creative skills of peoples of the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond.

What did you mean by “Incorporating principles of sacred geometry” in Artemis Journal?
The design and layout of Artemis is based on Sacred Geometry proportions of Phi, or l.618. This number is considered to be the fundamental building block of nature. Recurring throughout art, architecture, botany, astronomy, biology and music, this number was named by the Greeks as the “Golden Mean” and also referred to as the Divine Proportion.
I personally had an epiphany regarding these principles through a photograph I had taken in my mid-twenties titled “Inside Jerusalem’s Walls”. (Left) I became fascinated with this theory and began a life-time pursuit of applying these principles to my art and the layout of Artemis Journal.
Virginia Lepley, Artemis art and design editor gained knowledge of these principles from her New York experience in the ad world. She, too, is fascinated by Sacred Geometry and together we are committed to applying these principles to the journal. This has been a bond that I treasure and could go on about these principles forever...however, perhaps this should be a separated interview.

What exactly are you looking for in submissions for the journal?  Specifically is it correct to say the only people who can submit to the journal is if the subject matter has something to do with the Blue Ridge Mountain area?
We take submissions from artists and writers in the Blue Ridge Mountains and from around the world! Most years we have a theme; and this year’s theme is “Women hold up half the sky.” (Above Left Natasha Tretheway)

It sounds like Artemis is more than just a journal but a community movement, which includes helping high school students and women.  Would this be an accurate statement and if so can you go into greater detail of the services Artemis provides besides being a print journal?   
           You know, Artemis has published more than two thousand artists and writers over the years. We are a community of like-minded individuals who meet on paper and celebrate the fullness of life in our hearts. This year will be our 40th year, and by publishing under represented Appalachia writers and artists, Artemis has created a place for many contributors to debut their work alongside professional artists and award-winning writers, including Pulitzer Prize Winner and National Poet Laureate  (Natasha Trethewey); State Poet
Laureates (Carleton Drewery, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Ron Smith)(Above Top); T.S. Elliot
Prize winner Rosanne Coggeshall) (Above Right Black and White Photo); Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford (Erica Keating); Virginia Prize Winner (Mary Hayne North); and  NAACP Image Award Recipient (Nikki Giovanni). Left with Virginia Lepley left and Jeri Rogers Right)
       Other award winning poets who have appeared in Artemis Journal are Rita Sims Quillen, (Below left) Carolyn Forche (Below Right), Katherine Soniat, and LuAnn Keener-Mikenas.

I believe that the reason Artemis has continued all these years is because we still hold and honor our original intention, to foster excellence in the arts by connecting with the power within ourselves.(Right Top Katherine Soniat; Right Bottom LuAnn Kenner-MIkenas) 

Anything you would like to add?
There have been so many talented and dedicated folks along the way who have given generously of their time and talent to make the journal come alive. It’s a reminder of the goodness of people who care about one another, and who love the process of creating a journal, called Artemis.
*Artemis Journal is presently accepting submissions for its “Women hold up half the sky” issue.  Deadline for all submissions is November 30, 2017.
        *Everyone is invited to attend the Artemis Launch of the 2018 Artemis at Roanoke Taubman Museum of Art on Friday, May 4, 2018, 6 p.m. for the gathering, and 7 pm. for the talk by guest writer Sharyn McCrumb.

Artemis Journal is pleased to announce collaboration with The Light Bringer Project to enlarge its scope to include Science Fiction Stories.  The organization will close the submission deadline of Women Hold Up Half the Sky Award on Jan. 29, 2018. Go to for submission instructions. 
       This award recognizes a science fiction story that embraces feminist themes and has a strong female protagonist. Top entries will exemplify excellence in feminist storytelling, while capturing the complexities of their characters.
The winner will receive dual publication in Artemis Journal and on the Hollywood NOW website in addition to $100.00 USD cash from Hollywood NOW  The winner’s story will also be read on stage by a celebrity guest at LitFest Pasadena on May 19, 2018 and the winner will be officially recognized at the event. Additional prizes include a print copy of the Artemis Journal with the winning story featured, special recognition in media releases, and more.

*Back Back row; Jeri Rogers, Joe Klein, Virginia Lepley

Front row; (left to right) Blue Mountain High Students, Rachel Terrell, Madeline Emmett, Linneya Cooley and Maren Weber.
Here are the brilliant students from Blue Mountain High School, we are mentoring into the world of publishing Artemis. Artemis Reborn! Target publish date-May 2014!

Betty Branch

Maurice Ferguson

Carolyn Forche

Crystal Founds    

Dorothy Gillespie

Nikki Giovanni

Jane Goette
LuAnn Keener-Mikenas

Sam Krisch

Virginia Lepley 

Judy Ayylidiz

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

Beth Macy

Sharyn McCrumb

Rita Sims Quillen 
Jeri Rogers 

Sheree Scarborough

Tricia Scott

Ron Smith

Katherine Soniat 
Natasha Trethewey

Bill White

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