For the past three years I have, along with two of my best friends, Andrea Olsen and Merrill Moore, collectively embarked on a courageous mission to support women’s health and safety nonprofit organizations through the creation of a grassroots fundraising music-based event.
Eugene’s annual Mardi Gras Ball, this year Feb. 22 at Sessions Music Hall, not only is a night filled with incredible music, dance and fun, but also aims to raise awareness and money for local nonprofit organizations that support and offer vital local services.
This annual event conceived in 2016 and born in 2017 (continued birth references are noted) has been enormously successful at donating well more than $10,000 and is the only large, local Mardi Gras event that brings together different sectors of our community — local businesses that sponsor the event’s overhead, local event producers donating their time and a diverse array of local, regional and international musicians and dancers performing — in support of women’s health and safety.
This year’s event supports two local grassroots nonprofit organizations that offer invaluable services — Sexual Assault Support Services and Daisy CHAIN.
As an event producer, my favorite type of event to curate is one centered around building community connections — and raising awareness — in the spirit of collaboration through music. As a part of our vibrant local music scene in Eugene I know when we put our collective heads and hearts together, magic can happen — especially when we come together with a shared goal of amplifying voices who have for too long not taken center stage, not only from a musical perspective, but also in relation to the larger community.
Eugene’s Annual Mardi Gras Ball is focused on supporting organizations and also dedicated to building line-ups on both stages which feature a true diversity of musicians and music. This year’s event features incredible powerhouse women artists — musicians, dancers and spoken word poets.
Additionally, the lineups are the most diverse in our area: cross-generational, genre diversity and people of color are all highly represented.
It is my belief that those of us who are promoters, bookers, event producers and venue owners have the ability and the responsibility to make a concerted effort to create opportunities which support the values of platforming musicians and music reflecting the diversity of our larger world.
Music is known to be a universal language throughout the world, it has the ability to create a space where not only shared common interests can be discovered, but also where connections across the beautiful landscape of humans can be realized.
Shea Hardy Baker has been a local music-based event producer since 2016 and in early 2019 officially launched Studio 541 Productions inspired by NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series and featuring local, regional and touring musicians. Shea also is a mama to her 8-year-old son, a birth doula by calling, community and social justice activist and avid traveler.