Friday, March 5, 2010

Day at the Museum empowers, inspires

Close to 10,000 people gathered at the California Museum on Thursday for the first "Day at the Museum" to get a little bit of pampering and a lot of empowerment.
The star-studded event was part of first lady Maria Shriver's annual The Women's Conference in honor of Women's History Month. The day included exhibits, presentations, speeches and tours of the museum.
"Today is the most successful day [at the museum] in all of California's history," Shriver told the audience.
The day began early with a meet-and-greet session in the museum's lobby with Shriver, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass, and other female legislators, mayors and district attorneys.
This was followed by a panel of past Minerva Award winners. The Minerva is awarded annually to a California women who is making a difference and is what Shriver calls "an architect of change."
Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) co-founder Jennie Hernandez, Parents of Watts founder "Sweet" Alice Harris, and homeless advocate Betty Chinn were just some of the recipients on hand to greet the audience and help Shriver showcase the museum's Minerva Award Exhibit.
Women were treated to free massages at the "Relaxation Station," makeup applications at the "Hello Gorgeous" booth, drum performances and edible garden demonstrations in the museum's courtyard.
On the upper level, "California's Remarkable Women" told the stories of the state's many accomplished females, including food advocate Alice Waters, Mary See of See's Candy, XTreme Winter Games gold-medal record-holder Tara Dakides, and the first U.S. female astronaut to enter space, Sally Ride, who spoke later in the day.
Several women from "The California Heritage Quilt Project" did their handiwork throughout the day while answering questions about the the California Sesquicentennial Quilt, on display behind them. Created in 1996 for California's 150th birthday, the quilt was a collaboration between more than 200 women throughout the state. Other demonstrations Thursday included creating edible gardens, California Indian basketmaking and the origami Peace Crane Project.
After a cooking demonstration with chef Biba Caggiano, Iron Chef's Cat Cora spoke during "Only in California: A Celebration of California Creativity," along with other women who are using creative channels to blaze trails for women.
Cora spoke about meeting another Californian, Julia Child, as an aspiring chef and being inspired by her graciousness. Cora said it reminds her to take the time to shake hands and visit with her fans. She said she founded Chefs for Humanity after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to give back by providing quality food during disasters.
Cora reflected on her education in France and being a woman in a male-dominated industry. "I needed to prove to myself I could go and work in the toughest male kitchens in the world," she said of her apprenticeships in France. She advised women to take chances and not to be discouraged by obstacles that come along. "A door might close, but then a door will open."
Ayelet Waldman, author of "Bad Mother," also took the stage and discussed the often-comical trials and tribulations of being a mother and the unreasonable expectations to do it all. She commented on society's famous "bad mothers" such as Britney Spears, whose biggest fault was being selfish. She theorized that many mothers are ganged up on and deemed "bad mothers," to make others feel better about their maternal skills. "By defining to us who we aren't, they allow us to stomach the mothers we are," Waldman explained.
A more serious topic, body image, was examined through the images of photographer Lauren Greenfield. She showed disturbing photos of young women in a treatment facility for eating disorders and spoke about her experience while creating her documentary, "Thin."
Women weren't the only audience for the daylong celebration of women. During a courtyard ceremony called "Honoring Our Women in Military," Shriver thanked the men in the audience for showing up, saying, "I'm a big believer [men and women] must work together to raise the kinds of boys & and girls we want to change the world."
After a performance by an all-female color guard, Shriver welcomed Brig. Gen. Mary J. Knight to the stage. She paid tribute to the men and women serving the country, with a specific focus on the females in service. Knight is the nation's first African-American female general.
Shortly after, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shriver's husband, took the stage to extend his appreciation to our servicewomen. He commended Shriver for her tireless efforts in providing resources for women throughout the state. Referring to the day's packed schedule, he joked, "This shows you how exhausting it is being with a woman like this!"
The audience cheered when he confessed "In my house, every day is women's day!"
The final and much-awaited event was "I Did It My Way," featuring a discussion between environmental activist Erin Brockovich, journalist Lisa Ling, astronaut Ride, and actress and singer Rita Moreno, with Shriver as a moderator.
Brockavich said at the end of the day it doesn't matter what others think. "It's our perception of how we see ourselves and that's all that really matters." Brokavich continued, "I followed my heard and my gut and it never let me down."

Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Ride talked about enjoying science and sports at a time when that was not common for young girls. She said she was lucky that her parents supported her passions and encouraged her to follow her dreams.

Although Moreno noted "what's interesting is that everything we wanted, we thought was unattainable," for an hour the women discussed how they went about attaining exactly what they set out for. To view the entire discussion, visit The California Channel .
During National Women's History Month, the California Museum will have free admission every Saturday throughout March. A different female artist will be featured each weekend showcasing jewelry, mixed media, painting and an indie craft fair.
For a list of the day's events, visit The California Museum's website.

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