NORTHAMPTON — For Lyza Fennell, the founder and director of M/others Institute for Collaboration and Art, being a “m/other” can mean a plethora of things.

“Not everybody who is a mother or a parent or a primary caretaker identifies with the word ‘mother,’” said Fennell, when asked about the stylistic decision to have a slash between the “m” and the “o” in the mother-led organization’s name. “It’s an inclusive term.”

The inclusion of all m/others and their identities is the crux of MICA’s current visual/performing/literary arts festival, “MICAfest Art for Change: The M/others’ View,” which showcases the work of 80 m/other artists across multiple disciplines in multiple Northampton locations throughout the month of May.

“There are a lot of identities that come from ‘m/other,’” Fennell said. “And that is what this particular festival is about; sharing those identities.”

The first MICAfest occurred in October 2022 as a three-day event without much of a theme, according to Fennell.

“It was really just about featuring the art of m/others,” Fennell said, of the inaugural festival.

With the festival this year, Fennell said it was really important to bring the stories out of m/others through whatever discipline they specialize in, especially as gender stereotypes continue to infest the arts landscape and the country at large.

“There’s a lot going on in this country with women losing body autonomy and there’s been a lot of attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community,” Fennell said. “So, it felt very important to have a space for these artists to be able to tell their story in whatever form of art that they have.”

According to Fennell, this year’s festival encompasses themes like “Beyond the Ideal,” “Unseen Stories” and “Beyond Biology.”

Several artists who are a part of the festival use their art to confront themes like postpartum depression, anxiety and the overwhelming mental load of motherhood.

Catherine LeComte, a Massachusetts interdisciplinary artist, explores the under-researched impact of postpartum anxiety and depression on the brain, while Karin Trachtenberg; a New York actress, producer and director; will showcase a one-woman show titled “My Mother Had Two Faces,” which exposes the struggles hidden beneath the façade of the “perfect mother.”

Other artists in the festival explore themes like identity and reclamation in their work. For example, Haile Eshe Cole, a writer and creative from Texas, has a project called “Belly,” which is described as an intergenerational love voyage of Black womanhood and motherhood that transpires through word, song and dance.

Meanwhile, Kelly Silliman, a dance artist and educator living in Western Mass., will present a solo dance theater piece that explores gender, power and medical mistreatment. This piece was created in tandem with Melissa Edwards.

Fennell noted how the festival also addresses social justice through art. Esther White; a curator, educator and self-publishing evangelist; features work that tackles the surveillance and judgement mothers face in public, while Helen Ellis, a multi-media artist originally from New Jersey, confronts the struggles of incarcerated mothers and their children through her art.

“MICAfest isn’t just about showcasing art,” Fennell said. “It’s about creating a space where m/other artists can reclaim their narratives and drive essential conversations about m/otherhood and social change.”

In all, Fennell, said over 100 artists from all over the world submitted work for consideration in the festival.

“It’s been really wonderful meeting all of the artists and getting to know them and working together and, you know, building community,” Fennell added.

Visual exhibitions will be on display at the Northampton Center for the Arts, New England Visionary Artists Museum at Anchor House of Artists and Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity. Visitors can also enjoy dynamic performances at NEVAmuseum and the Northampton Center for the Arts.

People interested in the festival can either buy tickets for single events or they can buy the month-long pass. Readers can learn more about the pricing, scheduling and location of the events by visiting the MICA website: experiencemica.org/.

Fennell said the festival was made possible by grants and support from the city of Northampton, the Northampton Arts Council, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Amherst Cultural Council, community donations and many of the venues in the region.

MICA was an organization founded in 2022 to amplify the voices of m/other artists and advocate for their inclusion in the artistic landscape. Readers can learn more about the organization by reading about Reminder Publishing’s prior coverage: thereminder.com/localnews/northampton/mica-aims-to-highlight-work-of-regions-artistic-mo/.