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Meet Kentucky Foundation for Women grant recipients

 Fairen Kia, founder of Love Thy Belly -- an organization that hopes to increase body positivity in media -- stands on a runway with audience members on either side of her.
via Fairen Kia
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Love Thy Belly
Fairen Kia founded Love Thy Belly as a means to increase body positivity in media. The organization hosts events like fashion shows including fat and bigger bodies to increase representation.

Thirty-two artists' projects received funding from the Kentucky Foundation for Women’s Art Meets Activism grant. The program offers monetary support to individuals and organizations across the state creating feminist-led, art-based events, activities and projects.

This year’s grants total $150,715 in various amounts to different programs, all of which have a social justice focus.

Here are some of this year’s recipients:

Demi Gardner

Demi Gardner is a Louisville-based filmmaker. She received $5,000 for a documentary she’s working on about Black women and mothers in the West End.

“I've always wanted to make a documentary about the West End, because it's just not a story of the city that has been told, that I feel, properly as somebody who's from the West End,” Gardner said.

It details the role women played in keeping communities together during the 2020 protest for racial justice further moved Gardner into action.

“Women are very strong. They have a lot of harsh hardships,” Gardner said. “Just being a person, number one, and then having little ones to look after and trying to help them navigate their feelings and their environments that's changing all the time.”

Through her interviews, Gardner found mothers were concerned about the rapidly changing environment their children are growing up in. She also heard concerns from mothers that their kids have to leave their communities for access to basic necessities.

“That was some of their main concerns and just the violence and the lack of concern from the city that the West End gets,” she said.

Gardner plans to use the funding to help her collect more interviews. She invites any West End residents interested in participating to reach out to her via email at demi.gardner.dg@gmail.com.

Fairen Kia

Fairen Kia is the founder of Love Thy Belly, a body positivity organization. The organization increases the presence of fat and bigger bodies across media, including music videos, fashion photo shoots and runway shows.

“Representation matters,” Kia said. “When you see someone who looks like you, you see someone who is similar to you represented in a light that you want to be in, you can then envision, you can then envision yourself as that.”

Love Thy Belly has received grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women in the past, but at $10,000 Kia said this is the largest grant the organization has ever been awarded.

She said the funds have allowed her to hire a team to plan the second Love Thy Belly-produced fashion show. One she hopes to be bigger and better than the previous one.

The Love Thy Fat-shions, Fat is Sexy fashion show is September 30 at KreAtive Events Venue.

Pamala Wiley

Pamala Wiley is a writer who uses poetry and prose to process emotions and trauma.

Her work often centers on womanist frameworks. She’ll be using her grant of $2,500 to fund a writing workshop series for young Black women.

“That's what I really wanted to do, get these workshops together, young generation of young women, learn to really begin to identify feminist ideas, leadership, Black women experiencing culture and really begin to explore all of that,” Wiley said.

Exploring her emotions through writing helped Wiley a lot in her youth, and she hopes to build the same refuge for young women attending the workshop.

“Once you can begin to put your thoughts down and be able to organize those thoughts,” Wiley said. “And then you're kind of more in control of your life and your framework of what's important to you.”

Wiley plans to have the workshop running by September for middle school to college-age students.

The full list of recipients, descriptions of their projects and award amount can be found on the Kentucky Foundation for Women’s website.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.