A message from the Queer Arts Festival and SUM gallery regarding COVID-19:

Update — May 21st 2020

Art keeps us connected during the age of social distancing. Queer Arts Festival is steadfast in our commitment to artists amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff hard at work (from home) to maintain the integrity of our programming.  We’ve reimagined the festival to make sure you get your Queer Art Fix from the safety of your own home. 

All Queer Arts Festival events this year will be accessible online at our virtual stage by donation. RSVP now to events on Eventbrite to receive a link for entry in the coming weeks or go to queerartsfestival.com during the festival (July 16 to 26).


SUM Gallery:

SUM Gallery has been closed to public access due to the Sun Wah Centre closure since Monday, March 23rd. We will announce when the gallery reopens to the public.


OUR STAFF AND OFFICE:

Staff will be working remotely during regular hours and can be contacted at info@queerartsfestival.com or you can leave us a voicemail at 604-200-6661.

COVID-19 INFO AND PROTECTION:

Please check Canadian Government website for more information here.

Glitter is Forever Pajama Party

Glitter is Forever Pajama Party |

| Closing Binge | July 26 | 8 pm |

Get your dress jammies on, grab a drink and binge-watch the entire Queer Arts Festival with us (take it all in!!). Expect surprises and special prizes. 

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

This Crazy Show

This Crazy Show |

July 25 | 7pm |
July 26 | 2pm |
| Dance Performance | July 25 | 7 pm | July 26 | 2pm |

In his Swan Song, contemporary dance legend Noam Gagnon sashays the fine line between pain and pleasure in a fetishization of something glamorous and beautifully twisted: a monster beautified.

Synopsis: This piece is a reflection on the quest for love, through revisiting the worlds of childhood, both real and imagined.

How do we feel when we are hammered or deformed under pressure, but not quite enough to break? How can we be malleable and flexible, deform and reform without losing our core selves?

In ‘This Crazy Show,’ the body becomes a place of transformation, of transmutation, and of transfiguration. Alternately agitated, delicate and humourous, Noam Gagnon choreographs and performs, pushing himself to his physical limit to explore and expose “the art of artifice” in a culture obsessed with pretending authenticity. ‘This Crazy Show’ explores just how precarious and ambiguous identity can be, through the evolution of the body and the self as both are continuously morphing, unfixed and boldly celebrated.

“Because I dream, I’m not.” – Léolo

I wanted to take up the challenge of exploring new avenues of creation by playing with the range of humanly possible transformations, transmutations, and transfigurations. ‘This Crazy Show’ tackles the theme of the perpetual quest for love by revisiting the worlds of childhood, real and imagined, through the bionic woman as superhero metaphor.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund.

Visit Vision Impure website.

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

July 25 | 7pm |
July 26 | 2pm |

The Darlings, Uncensored

The Darlings, Uncensored |

| Drag Performance | July 24 | 7 pm |

The QAF proudly welcomes The Darlings—Continental Breakfast, PM, Rose Butch and Maiden China—to the stage, ahem, screen, with a new performance created around the festival theme of ‘wickedness.’ The multidisciplinary, non-binary drag performance collective has been taking the Vancouver scene by storm for the last two years and is currently titillating social-distancing audiences through aptly titled online performances Quarantine I & II. Their work challenges the boundaries of conventional drag, and explores genderqueer, non-binary, and trans experience through the use of movement, poetry, performance art, theatre, and immersive/interactive installation.

The Darlings are Chris Reed, Desi Rekrut, Rae Takei and Kendell Yan.

This event is ASL interpreted. 

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

PLEASE SAVE THE DATE AND REGISTER AHEAD OF TIME.

Underground Absolute Fiction

Underground Absolute Fiction |

| Speculative Theatre | July 23 | 7 pm |

Underground Absolute Fiction is an immersive play-meets-punk-concert, inspired by the apartment theatre of 1980s Poland. It invites audiences into a secret meeting at a post-Communist home. There, they join a queer punk band and Lena, a Polish-Canadian settler.

Created by Anais West, the co-writer of Jessie Award Nominated musical Poly Queer Love Ballad, Underground Absolute Fiction asks audiences to grapple with the complex legacies of diaspora, queer rights movements, and white supremacy—in both Europe and Turtle Island (Canada). Directed by Fay Nass as an Associate Project with the Frank Theatre.

This event is ASL interpreted.

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

A Night of Storytelling

A Night of Storytelling |

| Literary Readings | July 22 | 7 pm |

A Night of Storytelling is back for its fifth year and once again hosted by the much-beloved Danny Ramdan, this time around as a new online experience. Spend a night in with the talented LGBTQ2+ voices of the CanLit scene. Danny brings prominent writers from the Queer and trans community into your homes as they explore their identities through the medium of the written word. A Night of Storytelling features readings from Billy Ray Belcourt, Amber Dawn, jaye simpson, Jillian Christmas, and Erin-Brooke Kirsh.

Curator Danny Ramadan is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker and LGBTQ-refugees activist. His novel, The Clothesline Swing, won multiple awards. His children’s book, Salma the Syrian Chef, is out now. 

This event is ASL Interpreted.

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

Media Nights with VIVO

Media Nights with VIVO

| Rupture Probe | Sat July 18 | 7 pm |

| Return to Sodom North | Sat July 18 | 7 pm |

Rupture Probe and Return to Sodom North look at the continuity of themes across the two decades that separate the works. They also illustrate the resilience of shorter experimental forms that emerging queer festivals preferred and rapidly evolving technologies coveted. However, while Vancouver artists in the ‘90s were informed by previous decades, their work suggests an impatience for the new millenium. Today, as artists approach this fifth decade of queer Canadian media art, Rupture Probe also samples works that reflect on the past, applying critical remediation to its radical legacies (Slumberparty 2018) and incisive dismantling of historical oppressions (Framing Agnes, Less Lethal Fetishes).

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

| Rupture Probe | Sat July 18 | 7 pm
| Return to Sodom North | Sat July 18 | 7 pm

Too Spirited

Too Spirited |

| Indigenous Burlesque | July 17 | 7 pm |

Embrace your too-muchness with bombastic burlesque brought to you by the badass babes of Virago Nation, Turtle Island’s first all-indigenous burlesque collective. Featuring special guests Monday Blues and Lynx Chase! Whether you’ve seen it before or always wanted, now’s your chance to relish the many facets of indigenous sexual rematriation from the comfort of your living room. 

https://www.viragonation.ca/    https://www.facebook.com/ViragoNation/    

Performer Bios 

Shane Sable  “Mover, Shaker, Mischief Maker; the Furiously Flirtatious Force of Nature”

 2Spirit Gitxsan artist and activist Shane Sable has slayed stages all over Vancouver in front of and behind the scenes since 2011. Shane has an abiding hunger for audience engagement and delights in the tension created by breaking the 4th wall of burlesque. Shane is the convening member of Virago Nation – Turtle Island’s first all-indigenous burlesque collective and Festival Administrator for the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival.

RainbowGlitz is one of Virago’s Nations founding members and Vancouvers Rainbow Slut spreading her love medicine in a mix of classic, nerdlesque, exotic dance and pussy cat doll hip hop movements. This Haida, Squamish, Musqueam and black artist will leave you wanting to throw your gold at the end of her rainbow.

Instagram: @jaibrend

Scarlet Delirium: Vancouver BC’s Raven Goddess! The Kwakiutl Indigi-Babe! Scarlet Delirium has been enjoying the slow burn of Burlesque and Cabaret since 2010 and is a founding member of Virago Nation. During the daylight hours doubles as Costume Designer for herself and her Burlesque family.  

Instagram: @scarlet_delirium

Sparkle Plenty is Vancouver’s glamedian, weirdlesquer, and word-maker-upper who has been delivering beautifully bizarre burlesque acts for over 10 years! This fiery goddess is Cree and Metis with mixed heritage and is a proud sister of the first ever all Indigenous burlesque group, Virago Nation. You can find her teasing and emceeing with the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society as well as on stages all over Vancouver, Toronto, Las Vegas and more. 

Instagram: @sparkleplentys

Monday Blues is an Afro-Indigenous burlesque artist, and has been performing burlesque professionally since 2011. Monday has traveled the globe as a solo female adventurer and loves to live outside her comfort zone. Her most recent endeavours include being an avid entrepreneur, both in Sex Work and coaching capacities, as well as pursuing her passion on the burlesque stages all over Canada and the US. Monday strives to exist without limits and wants to help others feel just as empowered. 

Instagram: @missmondayblues

Lynx Chase: A true showpony at heart, Lynx Chase has always been passionate about movement and performance arts. Over the years she has trained in a variety of disciplines ranging from Aerial Hoop, Silks, Contortion, Partner Acrobatics, Bellydance & Capoeira;  however it wasn’t until she discovered Pole Dancing in 2012 that she found her true vocation. Lynx has been professionally teaching in Vancouver since 2015 and has also showcased her gravity defying acts at various events and festivals across the province such as Retro Strip Show, Bass Coast and Shambhala Music Festival. It is her hope to continue to share her craft with the world by demonstrating the strength, sensuality, artistry and grace that goes hand in hand with the art of pole and exotic dance.

Instagram: @aylaylay_

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

ArtParty!

ArtParty! |

| QAF Opening | Thu Jul 16 | 5-7 pm |
QAF’s opening: Luxuriate in a cinq-á-sept afternoon delight! Come together for our Visual Art tour with curator Jonny Sopotiuk, guest artists, and a gallery of intimate friends old and new. Wonderfully Wicked…
Artist Panel Discussion chaired by Jonny Sopotiuk with participating artists Tom Hsu, Avram Finkelstein, Diyan Achjadi, and Elektra KB.
Following our official welcome, guest visual art curator Jonny Sopotiuk gives a virtual tour of the Curated Visual Art Exhibition joined by 4 guest artists.

Jonny Sopotiuk is a visual artist, curator and community organizer living and working on the Unceded Indigenous territories belonging to the Musqueam, Skxwú7mesh-ulh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and Tsleil-Watututh peoples in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His interdisciplinary practice explores compulsion and control through the lenses of production, labour, and work. Jonny is the President of the Arts and Cultural Workers Union (ACWU), IATSE Local B778, Vice-President of CARFAC BC and a founding member of the Vancouver Artists Labour Union Cooperative or VALU CO-OP.

Tom Hsu is a studio-based visual artist whose works seeks to investigate the curious condition of spaces, and their correlation to the bodies that attend them, as communicated through the photography of the everyday mundane. He comes from a base in analog photography, and this stability allows him to extend into made, found, and choreographic sculpture, all of which deal with the everyday mundane. He currently lives and works in Vancouver and holds a BFA in Photography from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. He undertook a residency at Burrard Arts Foundation from April to June 2018. He has exhibited at Centre A, Unit/Pitt, Index Gallery, and Yactac Gallery in Vancouver.

www.tomhsu.com     

Avram Finkelstein is a founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives. His work is in the permanent collections of MoMA, The Whitney, The New Museum and The Brooklyn Museum. He is featured in the artist oral history at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and his book, “After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images” was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in Nonfiction, and an ICP Infinity Award in Critical Writing. 

http://avramfinkelstein.com/

Diyan Achjadi’s practice considers surface ornamentation, historical prints and illustrations as pictorial archives, and the potential of these forms as sites for knowledge transmission. Her formative years were spent negotiating different educational, political and cultural systems, leading to an ongoing interest in how our understanding of ideologies is influenced and informed by the visual popular culture that surrounds us. Achjadi received an MFA from Concordia University, Montreal, and a BFA from the Cooper Union, New York. She has exhibited widely at galleries and film festivals across Canada and beyond.

www.diyanachjadi.com     

Elektra KB is a Latinx immigrant artist, living and working in Brooklyn, NY. They graduated with an MFA from Hunter College in 2016 and received a DAAD award, pursued at UDK—Berlin with artist Hito Steyerl. Their work engages corporeal sickness and disability, with utopian possibilities and alternative universes. KB investigates: gender, migration, transculturality, and abuse of power. Their work entangles mutual aid, political action, and communication, often with a documentarian-sci-fi-like hybrid approach, exploring utopia and dystopia. Across: photography, textiles, video, installation and performance. KB’s work has been written about in: Art Forum, Artnews and The New York Times. Recent shows include: ‘Nobody Promised You Tomorrow’ at the Brooklyn Museum.

elektrakb.com

This Event is ASL Interpreted.

Queer Arts Festival is going remote. See our COVID-19 response here.

Save the date and register to let us know you’re coming.

2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM)

April 11, 2019 – 7-8pm

Come to a party at our Annual General Meeting. We’ll be providing updates on new developments at Pride in Art Society, and giving a sneak peek into this year’s festival.

Not only does the AGM provide us the opportunity to hang out with you in advance of this year’s festival, but AGM attendance is a key factor for some of our funders (so please show up!).

ASL Interpretation will be provided.

Pride in Art Society’s 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held:

Thursday April 11, 2019
7pm

SUM Gallery
425 – 268 Keefer St, Vancouver

All members invited to attend. Membership renewal and signup for new members will take place before formal business.

RSVP at events@queerartsfestival.com with AGM in the subject line.

Can’t come, but still want to support? If you are unable to attend the AGM, please consider appointing a proxy by filling out this Proxy Form and sending it to Lalia Fraser.

ProxyForm_AGM_2019_PiA.pdf

ACCESS and ACCESSIBILITY

Accessibility:
This location has not yet had an accessibility audit.
The BC Artscape-Sun Wah building is wheelchair-accessible.
– Building entrance is street level with no steps, the front doors of the building are automatic.
– Lobby has a ramp with a handrail, and stairs with a handrail, to reach the elevator.
– The fourth floor has two non-gendered multiple stalls washrooms, including one universal washroom with grab bars and wheelchair clearance. The washroom entrance is 32 inches wide.
– Support animals are welcome. BC Artscape is dog-friendly.
– The front door of our suite is 32 inches wide, swinging inward. The automatic door operator is at 35 inches high.
– Our events are scent-reduced. Please refrain from wearing cologne, perfume, scented personal care products or essential oils. Visitors who wear scented products will be asked to leave.
– The gallery space has no windows.
– The gallery floor is flat, with no internal stairs.
– Chairs are without arms.

Transportation & Parking:
The address is 268 Keefer St., between Main St. and Gore Ave. The SUM gallery is located on the 4th floor, suite 425.

Transit access:
Skytrain: Main Street-Science World or Stadium-Chinatown; Bus: 22 on Gore; 03, 08, 19 on Main; 14, 16, 20 on Hastings.

Parking:
There is a paid parkade as part of the building, that unfortunately closes at 7pm. After 7pm, we recommend people to park at EasyPark – Lot 7 and the address is 180 Keefer Street; or street parking.

Land acknowledgment:
We respectfully acknowledge that this event will take place on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded Indigenous territories of the wməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations. We recognize their sovereignty, as there are no treaties on these lands, and we are dedicated to building a new relationship between our nations based on respect and consent.
We would also like to acknowledge that this event is taking place in Chinatown, which is home to low income and Chinese immigrant communities. We are thankful and consider it a privilege to be able to do our sharing here.

Please let us know if you have any requests or need more information.

Interviews with Valérie d. Walker and Samantha Nock

Practicum students from the Social Justice Institute at UBC, Nikita Day and Emily Irvine, interview 2018 DECADEnceVisual Art curator Valérie d. Walkerand 2017 UnSettled Literary curator Samantha Nockabout their experiences curating for the Queer Arts Festival, their artistic practices, and the significance of queer art in the past, present, and future! Check it out!

> Queer Arts Festival podcast <

We’re pleased to have Samantha Nock as one of the readers at Lay of the Land, our annual night of erotic reading curated this year by Daniel Heath Justice. As curator of last year’s literary evening, Samantha rebranded the event as Lay of the Land.
Lay of the Land is June 19, 7pm in the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall and is pay what you can!Community Partners: Social Justice Institute at UBC and Unceded Airwaves http://www.citr.ca/

UnSettled: curatorial statement

Curatorial Statement by Adrian Stimson, Queer Arts Festival visual art curator 2017

We live in Unsettling times — the world feels under siege, unsafe, tensions between alt-right and social left, neo-liberalism, ongoing wars, Orlando, Chechnya gay purge, the US Republican Administration rollback of civil and gay rights, fake news, mutual assured destruction, resource exploitation, identity politics, reconciliation and on and on. For Indigenous peoples, specifically Two-Spirited people, endurance of these kinds of fears has been going on for centuries, our resilience and continued presence is a lesson for us all, we have, and will continue into the future unsettle the colonial project.

It is more important now than ever before that we speak up, act out and strengthen our social justice systems. We know from history that in times of strife, it is the artists and intellectuals who are targeted first, like conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa who put to death male homosexual sodomites dressed as women to the dogs in 1540. Balboa realized where the power of the community lay, and immediately had them rounded up and fed to the dogs, effectively annihilating, silencing and driving the diversity of sexual beings of the Americas’ underground for centuries.

For too long, the absence of representations of Two-Spirit people, art, and being from contemporary popular culture has been endured; it is part of the colonial project, to eradicate, to deny our natural beings, to dominate, assimilate, to ultimately erase our beings and memory from time. UnSettleddeploys artistic and critical discourse to focus on Two-Spirit resilience with work addressing power, representation, sexuality, language, body, tradition, memory, colonial narratives, and knowledge sharing.

This year’s QAF exhibition UnSettledfeatures the works of Indigenous artists who identify within the Two-Spirited context yet also challenge this binary through their own experience and cultural understandings.

To honour the past, we have included 3 deceased artists: Aiyyana Maracle, Mike MacDonald and Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew; we honour those who came before us, who paved the way, who took risks, who never failed in bringing their art forward in an often hostile world, we are the sum of them.

In the present, Two-Spirited artistic and intellectual expressions are blossoming; we have an explosion of people and ideas. UnSettledis honoured to present the work of 19 contemporary Two-Spirit artists; Their perspectives in exploring contemporary roles and experiences, as well providing a platform for innovation and experimentation at the intersections between the Indigenous and queer art milieu are a continuum of indigenous knowledge and being.

UnSettledexplores the art and being of Two-Spirit artists, and in turn, they expose the issues of historical extermination, heteronormativity, the lack of alternative indigenous sexuality and gender in contemporary Western culture/media, it is a reclamation of Two-Spirit identity, theory and praxis.

UnSettledis the signature exhibition of Queer Arts Festival 2017. The annual artist-run multidisciplinary Queer Arts Festival is programmed this year by Two-Spirit and Indigequeer artists.

For more information, click HERE.

Sat Jun 17–Wed Jun 28, Roundhouse Exhibition Hall

Queer Arts Festival announces Indigenous LGBTQ+ theme

Explorations of two-spirit identity will take forefront at annual event this year.

Two-spirit perspectives that aren’t often heard will be featured at Vancouver’s annual Queer Arts Festival this summer — and its curator hopes it will open the door for more work of the same theme to be shown across Canada.

In many Indigenous communities, the term “two-spirit” is used to describe a gender, sexual and spiritual identity that often encompasses all LGBTQ+ people, but it’s something that has been stifled by colonization.

The Queer Arts Festival announced earlier this month that its 2017 event called UnSettled will focus on reclamation in the two-spirit world, featuring performances and an art exhibit curated by Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson.

“It really means that one body, both genders exist. It comes from a more spiritual space,” Stimson said. “These two-spirited people have the ability to stand in both worlds.”

Stimson said when he was first asked to curate the festival last August, the general theme was about residential schools and reconciliation.

“I thought to myself, that is an important part but it shouldn’t be the premise of the exhibition,” he said.

“Indigenous artists have been dealing with those themes for years … I decided to drop the reconciliation part and look at the history of the two-spirit art movement and queer Indigenous theory.”

It’s something Stimson has explored academically, as well as in his own art. He occasionally performs with a gender-bending altar ego called “Buffalo Boy,” who sports a buffalo g-string, disco cowboy hat and fishnet stockings.

Since he is curating art in the festival, Stimson said he won’t be performing as Buffalo Boy. But he has chosen 17 artists whose work relates to the contemporary, two-spirit Indigenous theme.

The artists from across Canada will include Cree painter George Littlechild and B.C.-based artist Raven John.

Stimson said he had a hard time choosing artists, because there are so many who he believes deserve recognition.

Walking Stick by Adrian Stimson.

Walking Stick by Adrian Stimson. COURTESY ADRIAN STIMSON

That’s why, after the festival is over, he plans to look into creating more two-spirit focused exhibits across Canada.

“Part of my purpose in curating this is to actually broaden the scope a bit,” he said.

“Individual artists get recognized and that’s great but I want to, through a series of exhibitions, open it up because there’s a lot of two spirit artists out there.”

The Queer Arts Festival will happen at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in late June.

The two-spirit artists breaking down the colonial narrative for Canada 150

UnSettled will feature the works of 17 two-spirit artists at the 2017 Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver

DailyXtra – Mar 24, 2017 – Chahira Merarsi.

After years as a tribal councillor with the Siksika Nation, Adrian Stimson’s life changed when they took the plunge and applied to art school.

“I sort of asked myself that question, as I’m sure we all do, ‘What is it that I want to do when I grow up?,’” says Stimson, who uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they” in tribute to the Siksika language, which Stimson says has no gender-specific pronouns.

A residential school survivor, Stimson says art helped them deal with the trauma of that experience and the history of living on reserves.

“It allowed me to unpack and work through some of those issues that I faced while going through residential school, and the racism within the general public and the world, to create art that hopefully speaks to challenging a lot of those notions,” they explain.

Stimson is curating UnSettled, the visual arts portion of this year’s Queer Arts Festival.

After seven years as QAF’s artistic director, Shaira (SD) Holman decided to hand over this year’s festival to two-spirit curators and artists to coincide with Canada’s 150th year since Confederation.

“It was really important for the festival as a whole, rather than being a settler organization, to just step back and give over the entire curation,” Holman says.

QAF’s director of development, Rachel Iwaasa, says two-spirit curation is important because showcasing two-spirit art isn’t enough.

“We’re working with indigenous partners so that it’s not up to us to decide what constitutes an authentic indigenous, two-spirit representation,” Iwaasa says. “It’s important to us that we’re not the voices represented in the publicity.”

Stimson has curated the works of 17 established, novice and deceased artists for UnSettled in a bid to bring together and honour those who have been part of the collective history and being of two-spirit people.

Stimson hopes the artists’ work will challenge multiple narratives, including settler and heteronormative accounts. “I think it’s something that two-spirited artists do naturally and I think they continue to do.”

Adrian Stimson, curator of this year’s QAF visual arts exhibition, UnSettled. Courtesy Adrian A Stimson

The work of Coast Salish and Stó:lō artist Raven John, whose ancestral name is Exwetlaq, will also feature at the festival. John says working as lead sculptor on Four Faces of the Moon, an animated short film, helped them through tragedy last year.

“It really is life-saving,” John says. “One of my aunts was murdered last year around February and it was a huge blow to our family. Having someone so close be added to this gross list of missing and murdered indigenous women was really hard for me.”

As a younger artist, John says they were interested in making “unreal worlds real through film.” Working on a feminist, indigenous film with a mostly indigenous and femme crew was “really life-affirming” in the midst of loss and the uncertainty of whether there would be justice for their aunt, John says. “It gave me an outlet to know there’s something better coming, there’s something better to strive for.”

Raven John’s painting, Two-Spirit Transformation Blessing, will be featured in UnSettled. Courtesy Raven John

Classically trained cellist Cris Derksen applauds Holman and Iwaasa for stepping back while indigenous artists take the curatorial lead. Derksen, who uses music as a way of criticizing appropriation and reconciling their own identity, will perform their Juno-nominated album Cris Derksen’s Orchestral Powwow at the festival.

Derksen says classical music has appropriated a lot of indigenous work. “As a classically trained indigenous human, I feel like this is a time that we can step up and say, ‘Hey, these are our songs, these are our stories, let us tell the story.’”

Noting their Cree and Mennonite heritage, Derksen says the album is a means of reconciling the various facets of their background and bringing them together in a way that allows the indigenous voice to be “heard loudly and respected.”

Classically-trained cellist Cris Derksen will be performing their album Cris Derksen’s Orchestral Powwow at this year’s QAF. Courtesy Cris Derken

Most chamber music has a conductor, Derksen observes. “I think it’s time that we listen to the aboriginal people first, so the beat of the drum dictates our show.”

John says that two-spirit inclusion needs to go beyond this year’s festival. “We need to address our histories, and one thing that I would love to see change in the arts community in general is that we don’t have to have an Indigenous or two-spirit exhibition,” they say. “We end up having women’s shows or queers shows or Indigenous shows or, in this case a two-spirit show, and as important as it is to increase awareness, we need to be included in other exhibitions.”

Holman says she’s committed to two-spirit inclusion beyond 2017.

“We don’t know yet that we have the funding  but we’re hoping to mentor more young queer, POC [people of colour], and especially two-spirit people in these kinds of positions so that it’s not just, ‘Oh yeah, 2017 we did this,’ and then we just moved on.”

Orlando Furioso: A Message from QAF Artistic Director SD Holman

The scale of the loss in Orlando is unfathomable. This horrifying violence is a reminder that we live in a false paradise, that homophobia is still killing us. It’s important that we don’t fall for the rhetoric of crazy lone gunman and terrorist act—except insofar that every queer-bashing is a terrorist act, meant to keep us invisible and silent and in fear for our lives. 

I speak only for myself—I can’t claim to speak for the breadth of our queer communities. But I think a lot of us are feeling PTSD right now. So many of us have stories of violence done to us. I am thinking of the man that came with a gun to my house in Rock Creek to shoot me, a story I have never told, until now—what’s yours? 

My heart goes out to the families, chosen and biological, of the dead and wounded. We are going to be grieving for a very long time. Hate cannot bring an end to hate—only love can. 

And since Sunday, we’ve been loving each other extra hard—reaching out to friends and chosen family, saying I’m glad you’re queer, I’m glad you’re alive.

While we mourn in our queer communities, it is important to remember that Orlando’s carnage is part of a bigger picture. Part of a system in which people of colour, black and latinx and indigenous people, are disproportionately targeted, assaulted and killed, often by the police, then blamed for their own murders. Part of a system in which assault weapons are easily available—when America’s founding fathers mandated the right to bear arms, they meant muskets, not semi-automatics. 

And before we get too smug up here in Canada, we should note that 66% of homophobic/trans*phobic hate crimes reported in this country are violent attacks—2 to 3 times the rate of violence in racist or religious hate crimes. That man coming to my house with a gun, that was in the great safe country of Canada. I’m told there was a gay-bashing in Vancouver on Sunday, on the way to the Orlando vigil. Queers are a community in which our fundamental rite of passage, coming out, remains an act of courage.

To our queer Muslim siblings, my hope is that our communities will stand with you, and refuse to allow this hateful act to fuel further Islamophobia. As a queer pagan Jew, I promise you, we are family.

As I sit here trying to work on the Queer Arts Festival opening in just a few days, I am engulfed, and sputtering in rage and sadness and trying to carry on. But this thought helps: I am reminded again why we do what we do. 

Together, our communities have carved our own spaces out of a hostile world, spaces where we can sing and dance and draw and rhyme and fuck our resistance, spaces that meld struggle with celebration, politics with sex, serious purpose with more fabulous than anyone could ever swallow. Together.

If, in the weeks ahead, you find yourself needing to be with other queers and transfolk and gender creative people, know that the Roundhouse is queer space until the end of June. We are here now setting up, then once the festival opens Tuesday, the galleries will be open from 9am-10pm, and there are shows or talks or readings or screenings every night, where on the walls and the screens and the stage and even the hallways, Queer lives are Centred and Valued and Loved. 

Come for the art, come for a drink, come to help out, come just to hang out with us queers: us dykes, fags, nancy boys, bulldaggers, girlymen, mannish women, fairies, fence-sitters, and deviants. Come be with your people. Come because you are not afraid, or because you are. You are wanted here, and you are not alone. 

The 2016 Queer Arts Festival is lovingly dedicated to the memory of all the beautiful queers who died in Orlando on June 12, and to all those who survived.

Peace,

SD Holman
QAF Artistic Director