Have you ever wanted to express your feelings on menstruation through art?
You’re in luck, because the Voorhees-based nonprofit Flow Forward NJ is sponsoring its first art contest and auction to allow artists to do exactly that. They have until Monday, Jan. 15, to register a submission for the “Flow: Musings on Menstruation” art gallery and auction in March.
The event is meant to be a celebration of Women’s History Month. Registration is free, and artists can also enter pieces in an art contest as well as being part of the auction and gallery. Eligible artists must be 18 years old or older as of last March 1.
The art contest is open to anyone, but pieces must relate to menstruation and mental health and cannot feature depictions of sexual intercourse or use of organic material such as blood.
“(The art show and auction) was inspired by our desire to destigmatize the idea of menstruation and menstrual health,” said Flow Forward co-founder and executive director Sarah McClure.
“It goes so often untalked about and it’s an uncomfortable topic for many people, so the idea was that through art, produced by local artists, we’ll be able to present an idea of menstruation that shows both the true struggles of it but also the strength that it can give to people who menstruate and the overall experience with menstruation,” the Marlton resident added.
Flow Forward NJ is relatively new; it began in 2022 and officially achieved nonprofit status in September of this year. The group works with colleges like Rowan and Rutgers, as well as food pantries and homeless and domestic violence shelters, to provide free menstrual packs. It also hosts workshops during the year for Girl Scouts who want to earn their women’s health badge.
The idea for Flow Forward started as a student government initiative at Rowan and evolved into something bigger. The hope? To eliminate period poverty, defined by McClure as “the inadequate access to menstrual products, menstruation education and hygiene facilities.”
“It’s intersectional,” McClure added. “In that the idea that it does not just encompass the lack of access to menstrual products but also lack of education and sanitation (that) cause and breed period poverty. That’s the definition we work by, that’s the official definition.
By starting conversations and educating people about menstrual health, McClure hopes that a society can be created to help those who need menstrual help.
“If someone is experiencing a menstrual-health disorder and there’s no one around them that they feel comfortable talking to, it’s really difficult to find clear and helpful information just through the internet,” McClure noted.
She acknowledged that many of the programs that are used to help people in need – like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid and WIC (Women, Infant and Children) – don’t cover menstrual products.
The Flow Forward gallery pieces will be available for auction on e-Bay throughout March, and sent to auction winners by the end of that month. Limited select pieces from the judging period will also be auctioned live – both in-person and on Zoom – during the March 30 event.
Unsold pieces will either be returned to the artist or kept by the Flow Forward team to be displayed in their future office location, with permission from the artist.
Submit art pieces for the auction, contest or gallery at https://www.flowforwardnj.org/events/charity-art-auction.
This article was updated on Dec. 14, 2023.