Atira Women’s Arts Society (AWAS) was founded in 2014 by three women passionate about providing economic opportunities for women through the teaching, making and selling of arts and crafts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
The name Atira was taken from The Brooklyn Museum’s site, where The Dinner Party is on permanent display. Atira was known as “Vault of the Sky.” She was Mother Earth and a member of the council of gods in the mythology of the Pawnee, a First Nation originally located in Nebraska. Atira was the wife of Tirawa, the creator god.
For the Pawnee, Atira’s earthly manifestation is corn, which nourishes them and symbolizes the life that Mother Earth creates. “It was she who had brought forth life and it was into her body that all life would return at the end of its appointed time. Her symbol was the ear of corn, to represent the idea that, as the kernel is planted in Mother Earth (Atira) and she brings forth the ear of corn, so the child is begotten and born of woman.”
The founding mothers are Janice Abbott, Clare Mochrie and Deb Jack, all of whom continue to be involved in AWAS as directors, along with other women who have joined the board over time.
AWAS runs Enterprising Women Making Art (EWMA), a program which began in 2003 for women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside community, located at 800 East Hastings. EWMA provides a craft space, a storefront, and opportunities for artisans to participate in local craft fairs and fashion shows as a group. The society continues to receive support from the community- members, contributors, and consumers of the products that are sold by women in the program.