My friend Janet was an artist. She was my children’s high school art teacher. For many years I knew her as just that: talented, dedicated artist and teacher, an acquaintance.

Some years later, after my kids were grown, Janet contacted me to see if I might be interested in participating in an all women artists exhibition. I replied, “sure”, knowing she would get back to me when the time was right. As it turned out, a couple of years passed. However, I kept the email because I knew that Janet would get back to me.

And she did. This time the query was more developed. She and her friend, the artist Audrey Davis, were looking to form a very specific and focused group of women artists. They intended for these artists to form a community, not just around art, but around their very different life experiences. These artists were to be female, of different ages, different life experiences, different cultures, work in different media, and from different parts of the larger Dayton community. They were to be Women Strong.

So in 2018 we all came together for the first time. We shared food, life experiences, artistic goals, and gradually began to know each other. We laughed and ate and several hours later, all agreed that this was a good thing and we wanted to continue.

Together we have shown our paintings, collages, sculptures, jewelry and fibers all over Dayton and the Miami Valley. People see that we not only have art in common, but other things, even though we are Jewish, African-American, Iranian, Chinese, Native American and White. We love and care for each other.

Through this process of sharing, we have become lifelong friends.

Janet and Audrey are responsible for this blessing.

I am writing this in honor and memory of our co-leader Janet. She passed away quite suddenly last month. We are devastated.

However, we are what she and Audrey envisioned. We are Women Strong, and we will continue. For ourselves, and for Janet.