Kate Mueth’s Neo-Political Cowgirls are back in the saddle with two unrelated, but kind of related, events going on this month.
“It sounds cliché maybe, but it’s a chance for girls and women not just to tell their story, but to discover what their story is,” said Mueth, January Girls and NPC founder, as we rode around town together, chatting in her car.
A chance for females to explore their inner lives, January Girls, a free workshop every Sunday at Guild Hall in East Hampton throughout this month, has morphed into an all-inclusive event for “girls and women age six to 106,” said Mueth. The two-hour workshops, from 2 to 4 PM, each led by a different artist, feature journaling, art, dance, discussion, and connection.
January Girls grew out of a Guild Hall workshop at the East Hampton High School that Mueth had been leading for immigrant girls. “There was a lot of race-related bullying going on, kids hurling insults at immigrants,” she said. “This wasn’t new, of course, but it got worse after the election in 2016. Some of the girls spoke little to no English.”
“I’ve worked, from a very young age, with people from all walks of life. I was teaching ballet to severely handicapped people when I was 16. I’ve worked with homeless Vietnam vets in Boston. The elderly, the emotionally challenged — every walk of life you can imagine. And this is so very different. We want the conversation and story to happen — ‘Who are you? Where do you come from?’ — but you’ve got these girls, teenagers, who have all of this regular teenage stuff going on, who don’t know what they’re made of yet, and then they’re brought to this different country where they don’t know the language.”
And the stereotype — “that they are fleeing some terrible, war-torn regime” — is sometimes true, but sometimes not. “There are girls here who were considered privileged in their home countries, cultured and educated, whose families had thriving businesses. One of these girls, as they came across the border, her little sister was held for ransom at gunpoint. Another story, from a boy who is in this school, is that he had to step over his dead mother and keep walking. We are passing these stories every day. Our kids are passing these stories every day,” said Mueth.
“These kids have every right to plant their feet, to bloom, and we wanted to help,” Mueth explained. “I wanted them to feel that they had a community here that backed them up and supported them, so I learned, really quickly, that if you don’t feel safe and supported, you can’t tell your story. If you don’t trust, you can’t tell your story. So, we had to open up our arms and our hearts and our community so these girls have community here.”
January Girls “gives everyone a chance to ask themselves, and discuss with each other, ‘What is community?’ and ‘Who is my family?’” Mueth reiterated that the workshops are open to all women in the community, and hopes that females of all ages will feel welcome to attend. “It’s free, it’s fun, it’s multi-generational,” she said. “And it’s wonderful to see all of our girls get that feeling of empowerment, but also to see grown women in our community show up to be supportive, and then get so much out of it themselves,” she added. “I feel like we’re all empowered when we open up to each other, to get out of the self-centeredness. It’s about the give-get. I’m learning from you, and you’re learning from me.”
Each workshop stands on its own, so there is no need to come to all of them. To register for January Girls, visit www.npcowgirls.org/januarygirls. For boys, Mueth hosts “Dude’s Eye View,” coming soon with dates to be decided.
Now, on to “ZIMA!” which is an interactive, outdoor theatrical quest to solve a riddle, now in its ninth year. Featuring wild, costumed characters, “ZIMA!” starts at the gazebo on the Montauk Green on Saturday, January 12, and runs between 1 and 3 PM, with groups leaving every 15 minutes.
“The word ‘Zima’ is Polish for winter, so the backdrop for this performance couldn’t be more fitting,” Mueth said. “It’s always so much fun for families, or single people, everyone really. It’s become an event that people, and the performers, look forward to, as long as the weather cooperates,” she added with a chuckle. “It’s a great way to get outside and have fun and enjoy a performance.” The walking journey takes about one hour, and tickets are available in advance online at the http://www.npcowgirls.org website, or at “the door” on the day of the performance.
“It was originally to get people out of the house in the winter. There’s so much magic outside if you just get out there and find it. Art pops up all over, stories pop up all over, and you can find them, and you can create them. You’re limitless, and that’s magic,” Mueth said.