What: Little Stone Project

• 7 p.m. Thursday: “Little Stones” documentary screening; $12 plus fees; Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

• 4 p.m. Friday: Sophia Kruz discusses “Changing Culture with Culture,” presented by the Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholar Program; $10 plus fees; Liberty Theatre, 849 NW Wall St., Bend

• Various times Saturday and Sunday: Mosaic, painting and spoken word workshops (free, registration required) and socially conscious marketplace, Liberty Theatre, 849 NW Wall St., Bend

Tickets and registration at bendticket.com

Contact: littlestoneproject.org

If you follow the news — and since you’re reading this, let’s assume you do — you’re already well aware that autumn 2017 has been a different kind of fall. Make that “falls,” from grace, by the likes of Harvey Weinstein and a growing number of prominent men accused of harassment and worse. So far, it’s been a season in which an alarming number of women have taken to social media to declare “#metoo.”

If you’ve lately found yourself scanning the paper or scrolling through your feeds looking for some good news, you can stop, not just for a moment, but an entire weekend. Over the next four days, The Little Stone Project will synthesize socially conscious art, education, documentary film, lecture and commerce in Central Oregon. The event aims “to ignite our individual talents — where we can become little stones in the mosaic of larger social movements,” according to the press release announcing the weekend.

The Little Stone Project begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Tower Theatre with a screening of filmmaker Sophia Kruz’s “Little Stones,” which profiles four women improving conditions and fomenting change in their corners of the globe. Proceeds from the screening will go to Saving Grace, a Bend nonprofit that offers family violence and sexual assault services and promotes living free from violence.

On Friday, Kruz will present the Nancy R. Chandler Visiting Scholar Program lecture “Changing Culture with Culture: How Can you Become an Agent of Social Change?” at the Liberty Theatre. After the lecture, you can check out the Awareness and Prevention Through Art, or APTart, exhibit “Paint Outside the Lines,” by Cortney Holton and Greg Fields, during First Friday Gallery Walk at the Liberty.

On Saturday and Sunday, Liberty Theatre will host free workshops on mosaic, painting and spoken word, “each related to how these arts can connect individuals to ideas that mean the most to them,” according to the release.

Event organizer Cheryl Parton said the film title and event — even its early November arrival — were inspired by suffragette Alice Paul, who said, “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.”

“I had this idea I want to make a difference,” Parton said. “I think we’re all feeling like things are so insurmountable in the world these days. We can’t do anything, but it’s nice to try to do something.”

She added, “It’s been such an organic process. It really grew from the idea, ‘Let’s screen a film,’ to ‘My gosh, there’s so much more to say, and more stories to tell.’”

Inspiration for film

Filmmaker Kruz also felt compelled by one story — that of an Indian dancer helping sex trafficking victims reclaim their bodies — to share even more.

Kruz grew up involved in dance and theater, and toward the end of college, began working for the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan. When artists such as Yo-Yo Ma came to town, they often gave arts workshops.

“If they were a dance company, they might give a workshop for Parkinson’s patients, or go into a women’s shelter and do a workshop with domestic violence survivors,” Kruz said. “I started to see firsthand the power that art could have in just educating and healing communities. That sort of primed me in many ways to make ‘Little Stones.’”

Further inspiration came during a trip to Tanzania to shoot a short documentary at a hospital doing fistula repair surgeries to help women overcome incontinence from childbirth injuries. Though virtually unheard of here, obstetric fistulas are common in places lacking maternal health care. Often, a woman’s suffering is compounded by her being ostracized from her community or abandoned by her family, even leading to losing her children in the process, Kruz said.

“A lot of these women … are considered cursed. What these communities don’t realize is there’s a surgery hospitals can provide. And, of course, they’re not cursed,” she said. “This really opened my eyes about the issues women face globally, just by not having access to decent maternal health care,” Kruz said.

The hospital she visited also offered women post-surgery training in crafts such as beading and sewing so they could support themselves financially, Kruz said.

“Not only did I see the art that they were creating, but it was so much about the healing and the community. These women who had felt so isolated and alone were suddenly supported,” Kruz said. They were “learning skills and gaining confidence, both in arts and crafts, but also just in general life skills, getting an education in basic reading, arithmetic and running a small business.”

Dance rehab

Those global experiences with women and art catalyzed years later after Kruz learned about Sohini Chakraborty, an Indian dancer who has been rehabilitating sex trafficking survivors since 1996.

“I immediately gravitated towards her work because it just made total sense to me that, if your body is taken from you, and control of your body is taken from you through forced prostitution — what better way to reclaim your body than through dance, through movement,” Kruz said.

At that point, she was working for PBS as a producer of science programs, “and feeling like I really wanted to do something involving gender and equality in the arts,” she said. She Skyped with Chakraborty, who invited her to India to see what’s happening firsthand.

“Once I met Sohini, I started thinking, ‘There has to be other women using art in really innovative ways to fight for women’s rights,” Kruz said.

Opening the aperture

In short order, she found three other women to profile in Kenya, Senegal and Brazil. American fashion designer Anna Taylor started a company that trains Kenyan women to produce fashionable clothing. Senegalese rapper Fatou Diatta, aka Sister Fa, who tours around West Africa and uses her fame to call attention to female genital mutilation, a taboo topic of discussion though also a fact of life. Brazilian graffiti artist Panmela Castro includes the domestic violence hotline number in her arresting public artwork, sometimes as large as a city block and a couple of stories high.

In the U.S., there’s an undeniable timeliness to her film, which debuted in April at the Vail Film Festival, where it won Best Documentary. Unfortunately, such problems are worldwide. Castro is a domestic violence survivor herself — and the violence she survived occurred before there were laws on the books in Brazil to help victims.

“In 2004, she was beat up by her husband and locked in her home for three days.

“She eventually escaped and went to the police station with her mom,” Kruz explained.

“The police said, ‘Sorry, there’s nothing we can do … you have to work it out; this is a private issue.’”

Two years later, the Maria de la Penha law was passed. Named for a woman who was shot and paralyzed by her husband, the law gave women more legal rights and “created a space where women would be believed,” according to Kruz.

Nevertheless, the law wasn’t widely publicized — Castro herself didn’t hear about it until another two years had passed — so the artist took it upon herself to publicize it in her art.

“It’s not that different from what we’re seeing now with the #metoo campaign, which is all about believing women,” Kruz said.

And with more women coming forward to level harassment accusations against the likes of filmmaker Harvey Weinstein and other powerful figures, “I think it’s the perfect storm, honestly,” Kruz said.

She believes the storm grew by ripple effect from last year’s election.

“Hillary Clinton had been an icon of the women’s rights movement. She said that famous line that women’s rights are human rights back in the ’90s,” Kruz said. “Of course, we’ve been talking about these issues for a long time, but in part that (election) loss jolted everyone out of complacency.”

Little Stone Project organizer Parton agrees the timeliness of the film is remarkable.

“Of late, (with) the ideas of harassment and violence against women, the film has an unintended and sad timing,” she said. On the other hand, “There’s been a lot of people calling and saying, ‘Hey, how can I help?’”

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