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Black Arts Matter Festival

What is the Black Arts Matter Festival?


The Black Arts Matter Festival is an interdisciplinary presentation and celebration of Black artists. With a focus on performance art, BAM provides a platform for Black artistry that grapples with a myriad of topics including but not limited to Blackness and intersections. 

The Black Arts Matter Festival is both an entertainment and educational experience, providing shows that inspire, challenge, and inform audiences on the so-called Black experience through art activism. 

The festival has featured a number of programs such as panel discussions, One-person shows, poetry slams, and film screenings.


Our History

The Black Arts Matter Festival started in Madison, Wisconsin as a Division of the Arts ( formally The  Arts Institute) Studio Creative Arts Award Project created and produced by Shasparay Irvin while an undergraduate student at UW-Madison in 2019. The first festival was executed with the help of a number of campus and community partnerships including but not limited to the Madison Public Library Bubbler Program, UW-Madison’s Black Cultural Center, First Wave Faculty Mentorship Program, and HEX-U. 

The UW-Madison Union Theater has produced 2 additional festivals; a virtual festival in 2020 and another in-person festival in the Union in 2022.



  • Providing artistic opportunities and community for Black artists.

  • Prioritize accessibility for artists, staff and audiences by selecting venues with intention in regards to mobility and providing disability services.

  • Prioritize Black artists who are LGBTQIA+, disabled, women, and or hold other identities currently marginalized by society.



BAM Fest strives to better the social economic climate for Black contemporary artists through programming and community-building efforts.


If you would like more information, please contact



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Founder & Artistic Director

Shasparay Irvin founded and curated the Black Arts Matter Festival and is the current Artistic Director of the event. Shasparay is a performing artist from Austin, Texas, who was the 10th Ranked Poet in the World  (IWPS, 2018).

She holds a B.S. in Theatre and a minor in African American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While a high school student she was a speaker at the 2016 TEDxYouth Austin conference and earned a National NAACP ACT-SO Gold Medal. Shasparay has been a finalist in a myriad of slam competitions such as Women of the World Poetry Slam, Southern Fried Poetry Slam, Texas Grand Slam and is the two-time Lip Stick Wars Poetry Slam Champion. Shasparay has also been featured on Button Poetry, Youth Speaks, BuzzFeed, and Huffington Post.



Sarah Marty, a graduate of the UW-Madison Bolz Center for Arts Administration, is a Faculty Affiliate and Lecturer at the Division of the Arts and teaches Arts Entrepreneurship (MHR 365/Integrated Arts 322) for the Wisconsin School of Business.  In addition, she is the director of the undergraduate Arts Management program at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. As a producer she enjoys collaborating with campus and community partners to help make big things happen, whether working with the Director of the Marching Band for the UW Varsity Band Show or welcoming the Dalai Lama to the Overture Center for the Arts.  Producing Artistic Director for Four Seasons Theatre, other credits include Madison Early Music Festival, Wisconsin Public Radio 100th Anniversary event, and the Shannon Hall Opening Event for the Wisconsin Union Theater. @smartyfiles /

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