Fem Works Collective

Creating Space for Community Collaboration 

Good food sparks good conversation and collaboration.

Ryland Heagerty, manager at Pastabilities Restaurant, proved that true when she fostered friendships into Fem Works Collective. According to the collective’s website, “through the lens of intersectional feminism, Fem Works Collective supports and cultivates an inclusive setting for artistic collaboration, dialogue, community engagement and social justice within Syracuse.”

This month, the women involved in Fem Works Collective told us about the group’s founding and mission.

Ryland Heagerty

Founder of Fem Works Collective
Manager at Pastabilities Restaurant
Quiet painter, poet, object maker, collaborator

I have been dreaming of something like Fem Works Collective for a long time. After experiences in the fields of art education, expressive art therapy, nonprofit cultural institutions and the restaurant industry, I began to see my inclinations pointed toward something that looked like an experiment in art education event planning.

After trying my hand at a micro-workshop series called Dreamland last summer, I saw more clearly what I wanted to do: to offer local skill shares and workshops led by folks in the community and beyond; to make every event free, public and accessible; to bring together a team of smart, politically engaged, community-oriented, empathic feminists; and to develop a mission statement declaring our commitment to intersectionality, equity and belief in the vigor of creative collaboration.

We will be a safe and serious space that holds dialogues on the subjects of inclusion, intersectional feminism, activism, mental health and creativity. We will also be a collaborative and flexible space to experiment with new mediums and methods of expression. We hope to become a trusted, permanent resource for our community.

Reina Apraez

SCSD substitute teacher
Hostess at Otro Cinco
Radio cohost of The Witching Hour on Spark Syracuse

Ryland and I have been arty and party cohorts since we were teens! Last year, she asked me to help her talk through her visions for the Dreamland workshop retreat and offer some practical suggestions. We have a shared passion for community-focused art making and both dream of using our skills towards beautiful and special creations for Syracuse.

I have great relationships with all of the women on this initial planning team. We all trust and respect one another. While working toward these first projects, it’s been really special to share roles, decision-making and experiments.

Daily practices to honor and serve myself, my friends, my neighbors and our city are deeply important to me. I say this as a citizen, an artist, a witch and a feminist. I hope Fem Works can offer opportunities to better the lives of anyone who needs support.

Jen Eldritch

Purchaser at Syracuse Cooperative Market
Radio cohost of The Witching Hour on Spark Syracuse

I joined Fem Works Collective because I love the idea of fostering an inclusive and accessible creative community in Syracuse. It’s my hope our workshops can be gathering places for people to be introduced to new ideas and skills and meet community members with whom they can network and collaborate.

I’ve always been interested in the democratization of creative work. I believe creative self-expression is a birthright; the development of necessary skills should be available to those who may not be able to access formal training or education. Workshops and skill shares can be a starting place. As we, individuals, integrate creative acts into our everyday lives, our experiences and connections become increasingly beautiful and meaningful, and our community is strengthened and empowered.

I’m so excited to be working with this talented, progressive group of women, and can’t wait to meet everyone who attends our summer workshop series!

Celine Rahman

Founder of Cup Of Rahman
Wardrobe stylist

After forming my business last year, I was fortunate enough to work with a group of women who create products that empower other women in New York City. Being part of this collective made me wonder if I could be part of something similar here in Syracuse. My experience working with women has been incredibly uplifting, and I’m thankful to call the women of Fem Works my sisters. Being a part of this group is an extension of my mission to empower creativity and self-expression.

With our mission to spread creative awareness and social justice, I believe we can expand what may have been a small, curious community in the CNY area into a self-empowering movement.

Gabrielle Reagan

Yoga instructor & Pastabilities server
S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications graduate
Occasional Syracuse Woman Magazine contributor/freelance writer

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Ryland in the restaurant for several years. When she inspired us with her vision for last summer’s Dreamland workshop, I was eager to get involved. My contribution is yoga.

I’m honored to provide movement and breath practices at our upcoming workshop series this summer. More so, I’m honored to be part of and consistently inspired by the transformation Ryland’s initial vision has undergone.

I’ve always had a thing for the underdog, and Fem Works is a united voice for just that. I’m honored to take a role beyond my mat, collaborating with such amazingly intelligent, innovative, empathetic and responsive women to help foster connections within the Syracuse community. In tandem with connections, we’re aiming to make real change.

We’ve all felt the shift; things are changing, for better and for worse. I think Fem Works is a beacon, part of a larger recalibration of perspective and values, an accession of voices. I am beyond humbled to be a part of it.

Shauna Roloff

Registered nurse

Last year, I was able to participate in a series of workshops hosted by Ryland. The event coincided with a transitional time in my life, serving as an emotional learning experience for me. Having that supportive space and collaborative energy was very important and helped me heal in a way didn’t even know I needed at the time. I joined Fem Works Collective this year to support Ryland and help make these workshops happen again for myself and others.

I think intersectionality is a central value held by all of us at Fem Works. One of the things I’m most excited about this year is the opportunity to learn from the individuals leading the workshops. My hope is we will leave the workshops feeling inspired and energized, ready to foster change within ourselves and our community.

It’s been a gift to collaborate with the other members of this collective. I’m impressed by their dedication and ability to organize. I’m so excited to share a space and see how the events this year take shape.

Anastasia Selby

English teacher, writer and nanny
Recent Syracuse University graduate, with an MFA in creative writing

I lived with Ryland for a year and saw how well her Dreamland workshops went, so, when Ryland asked me to be part of Fem Works, I was thrilled to be included.

I’m an advocate for body neutrality, fat positivity, eating disorder recovery and suicide awareness. I believe frank and open discussions about mental health issues are essential to a healthy society. Having lost my mom to suicide, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation alcoholism and inaccessible mental health care can cause.

As a nontraditional student at Syracuse University from a lower- class economic background, I was also stunned to see the disconnect between the smaller communities in our larger community of Syracuse, especially across racial lines.

I hope Fem Works can help connect communities that don’t often interact with one another by creating accessible classes and workshops for everyone. SWM

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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