‘Girl with Grit’ started in 2016 as a social commentary art photograph of Blythe with a welder and the caption read “I waited for the Father’s Day sales for my Mother’s Day gift.” Blythe then developed and patented “Safety Sasses”, a line of outlandish cat-eye safety glasses that are meant to bring attention to the lack of marketing geared towards women when it comes to their safety equipment. She called them “an art project that made her learn manufacturing to achieve”. ‘Girl with Grit’ is another of her social commentary pieces, but it takes the form of social action performance art to effectively address the reality that girls are not set-up, supported, nor taught appropriate independent living skills and that leaves them vulnerable and not independent at all – there is a gender gap in knowledge from changing tires to tools. Additionally, it addresses society’s perception of a woman based upon her attire and how women in skirts and heels are typically demeaned not just by men but also by fellow women as not being as capable or less than when it comes to tools or various “handyman” jobs. Blythe wants to normalize femininity into these more traditionally masculine roles. Blythe knew the biggest social action she could take was getting tools into ALL girls’ hands. She has now grown it to be an accessible social action interactive performance art piece that is now a 501c3 nonprofit with the slogan “we put the power in girl power”.
‘Girl with Grit’ started in 2016 as a social commentary art photograph by Blythe Arts (aka Blythe Zemel) that was submitted to a public call for portrait photography and favored by three National Geographic Editors. The image was of Blythe with a welder and the caption read “I waited for the Father’s Day sales for my Mother’s Day gift.”
With a lack of girls interested in or aware of skilled trades jobs, Blythe set out to employ youth she felt could master tools quickly - she began introducing these concepts to young female artists. She felt that artists, another group often stereotyped as “starving” - probably should know about the skilled trades since there is a job shortage. The group eventually pulled out a 327 engine from a 1934 Chevy Truck in a moment of girl power. Soon after, women in the trades joined the mission of Girl with Grit.
Blythe developed a line of outlandish safety glass - Safety Sasses - she created to bring awareness to a lack of marketing towards women and personal protection equipment
Blythe would often frequent car shows dressed intentionally as a pin-up - but instead being photographed with the car, she was only photographed photographing the car and then would talk about years and engines with the guys just to further throw them off. It was a genuine interest but she enjoyed throwing people off.
Blythe developed the project Girl with Grit to get girls learning life skills that are more masculine in nature
Other women, especially women supporting the skilled trades stepped up behind Blythe and started acting as assistants to her in teaching girls skills
Girl with Grit was featured in the San Antonio Business Journal for it's girl power approach
Girl with Grit does interactive street performances engaging girls with tools
The founder of Girl with Grit being recognized in Kendall County Woman
Girl with Grit has even been recognized by Mayor Nirenberg for the skills they are advocating for girls
Artist Style: Street Art: Symbolic; Teaching Artist/Instructor: Group Instruction, Guest Speaker, Instruction for Adults, Instruction for Children, Instruction for Seniors, Instruction for Special Needs, Multi-Day Artist Residency, Performer for Schools/Classrooms, Private Lessons, Workshop Presenter; Visual Art: Social Commentary
My parents were both photojournalists and writers and by a very young age I knew the power a camera could bring for social commentary and social change. By high school, I was living in a dark room and was active in social causes - especially where I felt one was stigmatized or marginalized. They eventually married together and I turned the camera on myself to express my views of society and the roles I was expected to play. I had been called a “tomboy” but I also liked clothes and make-up. I did not understand why girls were called “boys” for their interests. I started centering more on gender roles throughout the work of my young adult years. I did not understand how, in society, my gender impacted my capability to do things - like use tools or change a tire - things I consider nothing more than independent living skills we should all have. I then started becoming more aware of the perception of others based on appearance. For example, the girls that looked like “tomboys” were given more credit in terms of having these independent life skills that are traditionally more associated with men. I found the more I dressed up like a traditional woman - the more I was marginalized by both men and other women. As this evolved through my life, I began to document these juxtapositions through dressing up feminine but having something glaringly masculine in the photo too. As time evolved, these performances started consuming me and my reality more. I was teaching High School Art and realized that girls coming up behind were still being stigmatized the same way and still were not being given independent living skills. Where does the performance artist end and real life begin? The photo Girl with Grit, has become a great example of living your body of work in the realest way possible. It started as a photo I dressed up for and became a legitimate nonprofit where I perform my social action in a dress and heels teaching these masculine living skills all while being a part of actually changing the problem through having girls interact and learn through the performer and the social action performance art piece.