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'An Evening of Fierce Women:' Art and music spanning millennia join forces at the Nelson-Atkins

 Elizabeth Suh Lane and Aimee Marcereau DeGalan
Christy L'Esperance
Elizabeth Suh Lane and Aimee Marcereau DeGalan

In a fusion of art, live music and narration, works by ground-breaking female artists and composers throughout history will weave together for one fierce evening. Classical KC's Christy L'Esperance speaks with Bach Aria Soloists' Elizabeth Suh Lane and art curator Aimee Marceau DeGalan about the collaborative event.

As a child in Detroit, Aimee Marcereau DeGalan remembers her first exposure to Artemisia Gentileschi's "Judith and her Maidservant." The painting depicts the story of Judith, a Jewish woman who courageously slayed General Holofernes to save her people from destruction.

"I remember walking up to it, and it's so big and you see this huge woman of great power and strength tackling a subject physically, but also literally and metaphorically. That just resonated with me in a big way as a ten year-old kid," she says.

Marcereau DeGalan is now the Senior Curator of European Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. "When the opportunity arose to consider bringing the painting to the Nelson-Atkins through exchange, this was on the top of my list."

Judith and Her Maidservant by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1623
Artemisia Gentileschi, Public domain
Wikimedia Commons
Judith and Her Maidservant by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1623

Serendipitously, Elizabeth Suh Lane, Founding Director of Bach Aria Soloists, also had her eye on Artemisia's paintings of Judith. The ensemble had performed Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre's "Judith Cantata" several times.

Suh Lane saw the connection between the works: "I reached out to the Nelson-Atkins to talk about how this piece of music could go beautifully with something by Artemisia on that subject."

"Elizabeth had the same idea, not even aware that we were going to bring the 'Judith' to the museum," Marcereau DeGalan marvels. "I loved that we were both thinking about this at the same time and we didn't realize it. To see it again and have the opportunity to interpret it in this way was such a powerful experience all over again."

And so "An Evening of Fierce Women" was created, pairing multiple works of art by female artists from the Nelson-Atkins Museum collection with compositions by women composers from Hildegard von Bingen to Barbara Strozzi.

However, the task of defining fierceness isn't that simple, as Marcereau DeGalan explains.

"Who are we to define what fierceness is? There are certainly examples in other time periods and cultures. So I connected with my curatorial colleagues who all offered up examples of fierce women in their own collections. We've got this wonderful opportunity in the exhibition to click on a QR code to see fierce women across culture and across time."

The QR code is located on a placard in the exhibition space, but the tour of "Fierce Women Across the Collection" is also available online at

"Everybody has something fierce that is within them and it's open to interpretation," Marcereau DeGalan notes, "and it's meant to be something that's very empowering."

"An Evening of Fierce Women," featuring Bach Aria Soloists and works from the Nelson-Atkins Museum will take place Friday, June 9th from 6-7pm. You can learn more at

Kansas City native Christy L’Esperance (pronounced “LESS-per-ahns") started listening to classical music on the Snoopy radio she got for her 4th birthday. Today, as Classical KC’s Community Engagement Specialist and On-Air Host, she enjoys classical music through much better speakers. You can reach Christy at She would love to hear about the ways you keep music in your life.
Sam Wisman is a Senior Producer for 91.9 Classical KC and a backup announcer for KCUR 89.3. Email him at