After years of working in Baltimore’s music scene, DJ Amy Reid was tired of seeing male-dominated shows. Reid wanted local venues to book more women, LGBTQ artists, and artists of color, so she founded arts collective GRL PWR in 2014 to do just that. “I wanted to start a collective where the lineup had no cis dudes and gave visibility to people who were being overlooked, but are just as talented,” Reid says.
At first, Reid focused on booking bands and DJs, which is how she met pop songwriter and producer Pangelica, who booked her first local gig with GRL PWR in winter 2015.
Pangelica also felt frustrated by the city’s “constricted” arts scene and wanted to help get the collective off the ground. With Pangelica’s help, GRL PWR now hosts events such as SWEAT!, an all-ages dance party and drag performance, which became a hit after its summer 2017 debut. “We saw the turnout of people wanting to explore their identity and their queerness, and we were just like, ‘Hold up—this is amazing,’” Pangelica says. “We’re giving people a real place and platform to express themselves.”
With momentum from SWEAT! and a growing following, Reid sought to support GRL PWR with a $7,000 grant from The Grit Fund, which backs local artistic collaborations. With that funding, the collective has booked high-profile names such as Nina Bo’nina Brown of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, who performed at November’s dance party at The Compound venue.
Reid and the GRL PWR team have big plans for its sixth year, including taking SWEAT! on the road to connect with underrepresented artists in other cities and developing new events, like a dinner social or a fashion show, to bolster relationships between Baltimore artists.
“I saw a need to take GRL PWR out of the party zone,” Reid says. “I wanted to create a space where we could actually sit down, talk, and focus on deepening the building of community.”