This Crazy Show at the Queer Arts Festival

By Rebecca Bollwitt, Miss, Tuesday July 7th, 2020

The Queer Arts Festival WICKED takes place July 16-26, 2020 online, with 11 days of events, which are all by donation. WICKED reimagines identity politics, exposing the implications of homonormativity as erasure.

I had the opportunity to speak with acclaimed dance artist Noam Gagnon, who over the course of his career, has helped push Canadian dance into the forefront of the international stage. Now during this time of COVID-19 and an evolving arts media landscape, artists like Noam are looking at their mediums and methods in a new light. 

This Crazy Show at the Queer Arts Festival

Get tickets here for July 25 at 7:00pm / July 26 at 2:00pm
(RSVP by donation)

My Zoom experience will never be the same. I logged on and met Noam for a chat to talk about his rehearsal, his show, and the Queer Arts Festival. 

“It’s been a very productive period for me,” Noam told me right off the bat. “I feel lucky that I am working on a solo because the last piece I was working on was with 10 amazing young dancers. So, to be able to work on a solo right now is a perfect opportunity.” In This Crazy Show he says he will be dancing with “me, myself and I” … and about 16 disco balls.

The Show was originally produced in 2016 as Noam’s swan song, and it was the last time he danced. The extremely fit 50-something who dances like a 30-something, thanks to his pilates practice and choreography career (see: photo above), said that getting his body back into the groove for dance was a process in itself.

Noam Gagnon This Crazy Show 2
This Crazy Show

Back to Dance

“It felt like a long time. The floor seemed so far away. ‘How do I do this again?’ There was a lot of trial and error, a lot of humour. I had a fun process I have to say, but not without difficulty because the work in itself is quite challenging — quite demanding physically and emotionally.”

The Queer Arts Festival had asked Noam to perform for a few seasons and the timing just didn’t line up. For 2020 he says everything came together. “The theme of the whole festival – WICKED – is just perfect for This Crazy Show. [QAF] creates an image from a certain point of view with each of their festivals and I think this one is just the perfect fit.”

Noam has danced and toured all his life and since starting the next chapter of his career, he feels he’s passing on information to the next generation to help them grow. 

“I wanted to create something bigger than myself… I’m 57, I see things a certain way, I perform a certain way, yet as an artist and as a human being I still want to find a way to keep an evolution.”

Noam described his physical, mental, and emotional struggles, throwing himself to the floor, retraining his body with these movements and asking himself how to accomplish a task in a new way, a way he hadn’t done it before. “How do I bring myself back to who I am? Literally after four years I was all in.”

A Sense of Play

“It’s what we can do as artists, as human beings above all, it’s the power of creating a space for people to travel, to invite them to be part of something that is bigger than them, where they can feel safe and that they can belong for an hour.”

“I had to allow myself to play…It doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter who you are, the process is a process and it’s part of anything we do, anything of value, and anything of value requires effort. Then it’s just a question of putting in your time, pulling up your sleeves, and being patient, and playing.”

During our conversation I was inspired by his passion and work ethic – I also had never laughed or cried so much during an interview. Humour is a huge part of Noam’s personality but as he admits, it is slightly askew which is in itself a metaphor for life’s duality; He balances life’s lighter and darker moments.

“Do what you do, don’t hold back, give what you can, share what you can, you’re designed for it. You can’t please everyone just be. Just be. Give from your heart. That’s my strength – and sweating. Now that’s my superpower!” he said with a charming chuckle.

The Online Experience

There won’t be a live audience for This Crazy Show, which is another challenge, but the thought of the show reaching far beyond the walls of a theatre, is an exciting one for Noam.

“This show will have even more opportunities because not everyone can be at the theatre, it’s a 200 seat theatre and who knows, there may be someone in a small town somewhere that will see it — a kid would not have been in the theatre.”  

That prospect is exhilarating, but it’s balanced by the feeling of trepidation, the thought of not having that crowd to play off of. Noam says that it’s hard not to have that instant feedback, that symbiotic relationship with a live audience, because as a performer he can feel it and he knows instantly when something falls flat.

Noam Gagnon This Crazy Show 2

This Crazy Show

This Crazy Show is inspired by the film Léolo (1992) from Montreal, where imagination is more than an escape. Noam describes it “like a magpie stealing stories from others in order to create a vortex where it makes its power more powerful.” He says it’s about the power of imagination as a source of survival, but also a power for creating change – he often thinks about the moment he understood that.

“For me my dance career, my artistic life, internally, mentally, it has made me a better human being. It has allowed me to transcend.” He quoted Albert Einstein:

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. 

In a world of darkness, we have to fight for light. That’s another one of Noam’s quotes. There were so many insights packed into one Zoom call, I can only imagine how moving the actual dance performance will be July 25 & 26. I imagined Noam throwing himself to the floor. I imagined the disco balls. 

I thought of the magpie.

“I feel blessed, I feel lucky, and I feel I’ve been given this opportunity and I hope that I can move, that this can have the power that it has had on me through this process, to understand the power of imagination.”

He looked into the camera and said ‘you are loved’. I’m not sure he was telling me that or just saying that in a general sense, but I felt it. I think it was for everyone, even himself.

“Know that you are loved for who you are, and be who you are, and love who you are. No one else is there to do it for you. The representation of what you give yourself is going to be represented outwardly, it doesn’t work any other way. It’s easier said than done and it’s a whole journey of trial and errors but you’ve got to do it. Better doing that than living on the other side.”

It was one of the best Zoom calls I’ve had throughout all of this COVID isolation. We started to sign off, I thanked him for taking time out of his rehearsal schedule to talk to me. 

He said, “There is love out there and to me, it is all.” 

Miss604 is a proud sponsor of the 2020 Queer Arts Festival.

The Isolation Diaries: nonbinary drag artists The Darlings

by Janet Smith, Georgia Straight.  May 29th, 2020 at 4:28 PM

With theatres, galleries, stores, and restaurants shuttered to flatten the COVID-19 curve, the Isolation Diaries reach out to Vancouver’s creative sector to find out what they’re watching, how they’re coping, and where they’re finding inspiration.

The Artists

The Darlings are a multidisciplinary, nonbinary drag performance collective based in Vancouver, BC. Their work challenges the boundaries of conventional drag, and explores genderqueer, nonbinary, and transgender experience through the use of movement, poetry, performance art, theatre, and immersive/interactive installation. The Darlings are: Continental Breakfast (Chris Reed), PM (Desi Rekrut), Rose Butch (Rae Takei), and Maiden China (Kendell Yan). As an emerging collective, they have mounted four full-length installations in September 2018, October 2018, and April 2019 as well as features at 2018’s Here For Now Volume 2 dance showcase, the 2019 PuSh International Performing Arts Festiva), and full-length feature at the Transform Cabaret Festival. They created two quarantine-specific, digital shows during the 2020 COVID-19 social distancing measures, which has garnered more than 10,000 views to date; you can find those via Facebook and Vimeo.

No. 1 Thing That’s Getting You Through

MC: “I’ve been ruminating on the resilience of the queer community pushing their art forms through new mediums and making it WERK and that excites me beyond belief. Seeing folks like Kendall Gender and Boss create beautiful, high-calibre drag videos that rival the multibillion-dollar music industry fills me with pride I can’t describe. Also, mothering my house plants and shaving my eyebrows off.”

CB: “I’ve been listening to music constantly, I find monotony in TV and film sometimes because I struggle to see the representation I’m looking for in my art intake. Things outside are stressful right now and keeping calm is a big focus for me. Down-tempo music with minimal vocals stays emotionally gentle.”

Comfort Food

RB: “Ugh, the dalgona coffee trend got me and I love it. I’ve been really enjoying fermented things – eating a lot of kimchi, enjoying sourdough baked by pals, and I went full throttle East Van and brewed and bottled my own kombucha for the first time!

“Every once in a while I like to get a takeout treat from some of my favourite Mount Pleasant spots – poutine from The Black Lodge and the tuna poké bowl from Carp. And Earnest Ice Cream, obviously. Specifically, the vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel.”

PM: 1 cup milk.

2 bananas .

3/4 cup Chia.

1 spoonful of Nutella / Peanut Butter.

Blend, and put in the fridge, 30 minutes.

STIR / SHAKE mixture.

leave for 30 MORE minutes.

” A yummy, pudding-like fantasy should be achieved.”


PM: “Isolation – Kali Uchis (title is very fitting for this time; but this music washes over and just makes me so happy. It is light and bubbly, and very well written)

“Quarantine has also given me a chance to create playlists. I used to use YouTube, but with Spotify, the tables have turned. I have been curating playlists for different parts of the city, that would suit each area (in my opinion)–English Bay, Commercial Drive, Trout Lake.”

MC: “For an emotional joyride I turn to pretty much everything by Anohni and the Johnsons, or Hopelessness by ANOHNI. Queer dance party simulations to Raise me up by Hercules and the Love Affair. Also Austra’s new album is very fresh and exhilarating and a general all around mood lifter.”

Streaming now

RB: “Podcasts are my number one medium to consume, and usually it’s something related to true crime but I just got hooked on Making Gay History. It’s a gorgeous oral history podcast of interviews recorded in the ’70s and ’80s with movers and shakers of the LGBTQ+ rights movements in the US from the 40s to the 90s. I highly recommend, especially to queer folks from my generation.”

MC: “I’ve been really into Midnight Gospel; it’s like a visual podcast set to a millennial psychedelic sci-fi trip with philosophical ramblings and cute characters. Sasha Velour’sNightgowns on Quibi, and also Terrace house because I love reality TV that isn’t centered around conflict and abuse.”

Creative or learning outlet

PM: “I’ve been dancing a lot more than I have in the past couple of years. I always held my movement to a high standard, and gave up the desire to make it my full-time profession because doubt crept in. For whatever reason, research feels more poignant during this time. I’ve been improving, filming and learning from myself without judgement from teachers or other people. It has been beautiful to be able to watch, learn, and edit.”

MC: “I did a 40-day quarantine drag look series on Instagram and that provided me so much solace for the beginning of this wild experience- sitting down without the news or instagram/FB and just focusing on the art. I learned a lot about texture, unconventional materials, and makeup for camera vs. the stage. I’m also slowly practicing my mandarin and plan to start sewing soon!”

The Darlings
The Darlings

Survival tip

RB: “Stay connected with folks that you love, drink water, be kind to one another.”

PM: “Do what you need to do to survive during this time. Although everyone is in this “thing” together, each Quarantine will look different. Just because you’re not “doing” or “practicing” in quarantine doesn’t make the work you’ve done any less. Each person is in this, grieving, together. Don’t try and replicate others to try and feel fulfilled. You can sit, and be content during this time.”

MC: “In relative terms I’m very lucky to be in a country that is providing social assistance during a time of mass unemployment, so I think being mindful of what privileges I have in my position has been keeping me somewhat level through all of this. I live with high anxiety and depression and the best thing I’ve been able to do is take every day as it comes by listening critically and thoughtfully to my needs as a means of being conscious of what I want my life to look like. Stay inspired, establish your boundaries, cultivate change.”

CB: “Stay informed on what is happening in the news but try to focus on ways of keeping the people in your life safe. Past a certain point, scrolling through the news will only cause anxiety and you need to provide yourself with things that you enjoy. Pornh*b Premium is free right now.”


By Kristi Alexandra @kristialexandra | Looselips Magazine | June 23, 2020

Feature photo by Noam Gagnon

“Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others,” Oscar Wilde famously said.

It points to a quandary of human judgement–who is wicked, and who gets to say so? Is it a given label, or does one get to righteously claim it?

It’s on this premise that the 2020 Vancouver Queer Arts Festival is built, and artistic director SD Holman has curated a lineup of transdisciplinary art and artists that embody the meaning of the word.

Starting off on July 16, the 10-day festival will include drag and burlesque performances, literary readings, speculative theatre and more–all in celebration of queer identity. 

“I think it’s so apropos that wicked came up right now at this moment,” Holman tells Loose Lips Mag. “I think artists are outlaws, and queers are the ones that I’m interested in.”

Holman draws a parallel between the theme of the 12th annual Queer Arts Festival and the current state of the world.

“There’s many layers to it, right now, especially, with the pandemic and with the killings and the police brutality. [What’s] coming to my mind is inclusion. Inclusion at what cost? Inclusion for who? Our inclusion is contingent on a set of rules,” they speculate.

“Years ago, they wanted to get rid of the drag queens and leather dykes at the pride parade. Inclusion depends on us being palatable. I want to see good art that can fall outside of that palatability.”

And this year’s lineup of performers does just that.

Indigenous burlesque group Virago Nation

Take for example, all-Indigenous burlesque group Virago Nation, who will perform Too Spirited on July 17. The group bucks colonial interpretations of beauty in what they call sexual rematriation.

Also on the docket is The Darlings, a non-binary drag collective whose performances have been repeatedly censored by Facebook. As a nod, their July 24 performance is aptly called The Darlings, Uncensored. 

Other acts include contemporary dance legend Noam Gagnon and queer writers Hiromi Goto and Erica Isomura.

“I like to highlight local, but I also love to bring in folks from away, so people can talk to each other across the disciplines and across time and across space,” says Holman. “I wanted to bring art into the world and into Vancouver that I wasn’t seeing.” 

Photo from The Darlings

As with every year, Queer Arts Festival has made a big effort to be accessible, both with ASL interpretations and with by-donation events.

 “Accessibility is really high up on our list and mandate,” Holman affirms, noting that ASL interpretations have always been part of the festival.

What’s entirely different this year, however, is 2020’s QAF is “going remote.” For the festival’s team, it came with its own unique challenges, but also with wins and determination.

“We were able to partner with The Cultch and do filming there, and we’re managing how to do that in a safe way. We have a safety plan, they have their safety plan,” Holman reveals. “It was our opportunity to say ‘Let’s re-envision this as something completely different.’” 

And different is exactly what Queer Arts Festival is all about. One might dare say, it’s about to get “wicked.”

Queer Arts Festival runs online from July 16 – 26. Check out the schedule, lineup and get tickets here.

Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep

The festival must go on

The Jewish Independent | June 26, 2020

SD Holman, artistic and executive director of the Queer Arts Festival, which takes place July 16-26. (photo from QAF)

“Since the very beginning, I said not doing the festival was not an option … because my belief is that they [the arts] are really, really important – I would say essential.”

Sharing their appreciation for the vital work being done by those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, SD Holman, artistic and executive director of the Queer Arts Festival, said, “art is really keeping people alive, in different ways than the amazing health workers that are taking care of folks right now. Even people who say they don’t like art – if you read a book, if you watch Netflix, you take part in the art world.”

This year’s Queer Arts Festival, which takes place July 16-26, will happen mostly online. This is, of course, not what was initially planned.

By mid-May, Holman said, “we had to have a plan. And, right now, we’re still working on how the delivery is going to look because it’s not all digital. One of the things that was really important to us, to me, is that, not all people have computers, not all people have a stable wi-fi access, people can’t go to the libraries [now] if they don’t have computer, so how do people access it? If they’re not privileged enough to have this little box in front of them, how do we deliver a festival?”

One of the things being considered is billboard art. As well, there is the possibility of using parks as venues.

The planning of such a festival normally starts a year in advance, not the couple of months that COVID has allowed for a reimagined version. Some elements – such as the visual arts show – have been adapted for the new circumstances, while some will have to be postponed, as they do not lend themselves to online viewing, because they are interactive on some level, or the artists can’t make it to Vancouver.

When asked about the process for choosing festival artists, Holman said, “I talk a lot to people, I try and keep abreast of what’s going on. I always want to support local artists and also bring in folks from away, so that there are great conversations that happen of what’s going on in the world, as well as what’s happening here.”

The festival programmer does research and people can also apply to be part of the festival. As well, Holman said, “There’ll be people that talk to me about wanting to do something, and that usually percolates for two or three years before anything ever happens.”

Holman has been with the festival since its beginnings as a volunteer collective in 1998. “Two-spirit artist Robbie Hong, black artist Jeffrey Gibson were the main founders of Pride in Art [Society],” they explained. “I was an artist and then I became involved in the collective in 2005, when Robbie was wanting to step away … and I called in Dr. Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa because she had approached me about something and I said, ‘Come and join me on this.’ And we spearheaded making it professional, making it a festival…. It was a community visual art show up until that point…. As an artist myself, I wanted to pay artists – too often artists are expected to do stuff for free, and that’s impossible.”

According to the festival website, PiA became a not-for-profit in 2006, mounted its first festival in 2008 and rebranded to become the Queer Arts Festival in 2010, obtaining charitable status in 2012.

“Rachel has finally managed to extricate herself,” said Holman, “because we also both have our own arts practices and it’s very hard to run this organization and also have an arts practice; it might have fallen a bit by the wayside, but Rachel is a concert pianist. [She’s] no longer staff with us, [but] she’s still doing some contract work with us and passing over her organizational knowledge.”

While Holman is a photo-based artist, the festival remains their focus. It is the belief that “art changes people and people change the world” that motivates them, “because it’s important work” – “when a country is taken over, the first people they suppress are the artists.… You take over the media and you get rid of the artists because people can be completely destroyed – the first thing they start doing [to recover] is making art, whether it’s in a mud puddle, making a mud pie, they start, that is, expression; that’s what brings them back.

“Art reaches you on a visceral level,” Holman continued. “There’s this thing called confirmation bias, so we take in more what we already agree with, but art can get you in a way that can transform our ways of thinking.”

For Holman, being queer and Jewish are parts of their larger identity. Holman has self-described, for example, as “a queer pagan Jew” and “a Jewish, butch, bearded dyke.”

“I come from L.A.,” they told the Independent. “I was born and raised in L.A., and I have had several Jewish friends be, ‘Oh, you’re too much for Vancouver.’ And I’ve been here for a long time … [but] people are, ‘Why aren’t you in New York, why aren’t you in L.A.? Why aren’t you where you can be more?’ I always get this feeling here … that people are always trying to be, ‘Shh, could you just be a little bit quieter, could you just be not quite so much?’ There’s this too-muchness about Jews. And there’s kind of this too-muchness about queers, too. There’s this assimilation. My family assimilated – I got, from my bubbie and my great-aunt, I would get Christmas cards. We’re Jewish! But we assimilated because that was what was safe for us. And so there’s all this assimilation and erasure that happens with queers and Jews, because, also, many of us can pass; we can pass as straight, we can pass as not Jewish.”

Despite skepticism about the possibility of Jews being fully accepted – the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville a couple of years ago featured chants of “Jews will not replace us,” for example – Holman is completely out there in her Jewishness and queerness, in a seemingly fearless way.

“Oh no, I’m afraid of everything, that’s why I do it,” they said. “Although, that’s not true anymore. Since my wife died [in 2009], I don’t fear anything because the worst thing has already happened to me. But I used to be, I was quite fearful.… [However] I’ve never been able to be in the closet about anything really. And, I guess, for me, that’s kind of Jewishness, [being] more emotive and not afraid to debate, not always trying to please people. For me, it comes from my Jewish heritage.”

Despite the many accolades for their art and for their work with the Queer Arts Festival, including the 2014 YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Arts and Culture, Holman said, “I have been a failure all my life.” Among their reasons for that description, Holman said they are dyslexic. They added, “I’m butch, so that’s a failure as a woman; feminists were called failures as women.” But, they said, they are working with that in their art and, on the positive side, being a failure “frees you up to make your own rules, so make your own rules.”

The theme of this year’s Queer Arts Festival is “Wicked.” The press release quotes Oscar Wilde: “Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.”

“It’s always really multi-layered the theme and then people take different stuff out of it,” said Holman. “So, there’s also the book Wicked … because Wicked is about it’s not easy being green, it’s not easy being different. It’s not easy being a Jew, it’s not easy being queer. It’s not easy being butch, it’s not easy being an activist. It’s all actually about activism, the book Wicked.”

In addition, there is, as Holman writes in the press release, the question, “What do we lose – who do we lose – if we accept induction into the dominant order, and reframe ourselves as a ‘moral minority’?”

“It’s a bit of a double pun,” they explained to the Independent. “The ‘Moral Majority’ years ago, who were trying to say [what’s acceptable in society], the right-wing, and there’s the ‘model minority,’” the Asian community, whose perceived greater-than-average success and stereotypical politeness are used to downplay the existence of racism. “It totally ties in with what I was talking about ‘too-muchness’ and excess and how we, as queers, work towards justice and inclusion.”

While becoming “more acceptable,” Holman said, “it’s still, ‘please don’t scare the horses.’… So, it’s OK if you want to be gay and lesbian and you want to get married and you want to have kids and you want to buy a house and be part of the whole heteronormative [framework] … be part of society’s morals, but could you leave the drag queens and the leather dykes at home?… Even with gender stuff. We know now that it’s a real spectrum and people are getting [more accepted], trans are really out in the world [for example] and it’s OK if you want to be a ‘real woman’ or a ‘real man,’ whatever that is, but people in between are still, ‘Come on, could you choose a side?’

“There’s this whole [feeling like], we’ve given you these things, we’ve given you marriage rights, you can have children, you can affirm your gender, you can do those things, but could you now just be nicer to us? And, I think, we have to be careful of that – being sanctioned by the state of what’s OK [because] then people get left behind, and that’s what we’re seeing right now … the more privilege you gain, you have to be really careful of that,” of remembering that not everyone is being treated well.

The QAF opens on July 16. “And we’re going to have a binge/party at the end, on the 26th, and there’ll be prizes,” said Holman. “We’re going to play the whole entire festival. I think it’s going to be 12 hours or something – we’re inviting people to get into their best dress jammies.

“Everything is going to be pay-what-you-can, by donation…. Pay as much as you can, please, because we want to support the artists.”

Among those artists are Jewish community members Avram Finkelstein, from New York, who helps open the festival (see and locally based Noam Gagnon, whose work This Crazy Show (July 25-26) is described as “a reflection on the quest for love, through revisiting the worlds of childhood, both real and imagined.” In it, he “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.”

For more information on the festival, visit

Five events that can’t be missed at this year’s virtual Vancouver Queer Arts Festival

Georgia Straight: posted on June 25th, 2020 at 9:00 AM

(This story is sponsored by the Pride in Art Society.)

Art holds the ability to connect people despite their race, culture, gender, or sexuality. As we find ourselves in midst of a global pandemic, feeling connected is now more important than ever.

The 12th annual Queer Arts Festival (QAF) takes place from July 16 to 26, and features a curated lineup of visual art, performing arts, workshops, artist talks, panels, and media art screenings. To follow suggested social distancing guidelines, this year’s entertaining and thought-provoking festival will be easily accessible to all through an online platform.

As noted in the festival’s press release, QAF’s 2020 theme, Wicked, “reimagines identity politics, exposing the implications of homonormativity as erasure”. It will also explore the commodification of the queer experience, which is sure to spark discussion among those who attend the virtual festival.

All of the brilliant multidisciplinary events at the online festival will evoke emotion and wonder. Here are five highlights not to be missed:

Art Party! Cinq-à-Sept festival opening

The QAF kick-off is happening on Thursday, July 16 from 5 to 7 p.m. This will feature a visual art tour curated by Jonny Sopotiuk and other guest artists.

Too Spirited

At 7 p.m. on Friday, July 17, an Indigenous burlesque show that is performed by Virago Nation will dazzle viewers who tune in. The performers will explore Indigenous sexuality through humor, pop culture, and politics.

Rupture Probe: Queer Inquiries & Remediations

On Saturday, July 18 at 7 p.m., QAF attendees can stream the screenings of queer short films that rupture normative notions of gender, activism, and pleasure. This media art event is curated in partnership with VIVO Media Arts Centre.

The Darlings, Uncensored

On Friday, July 24 at 7 p.m., The Darlings will perform a genre-bending, non-binary drag show with a new performance created around the festival theme of “wickedness”. The Darlings have taken the local drag scene by storm and are comprised of talented drag performers: Continental Breakfast, PM, Rose Butch, and Maiden China.

Glitter is Forever: Pyjama Party

If you had to miss some of the previous events, you can curl up on the couch and binge-watch the entire QAF on Sunday, July 26. The closing pyjama party will start at 4 p.m. and run until late so this is the perfect opportunity to make fancy espresso martinis. Wear your favourite silk robe and expect an evening filled with surprises, special prizes, attention-grabbing performances and remarkable visual art.

For the full festival lineup, visit To RSVP to the QAF, click here

The Pride in Art Society is always accepting donations that go toward the festival, programs for adults and youth, and much more. To make a donation to the community-based nonprofit, visit its CanadaHelps page.

See original article here.

Where to get your (remote) art fix during Pride

Jun 22, 2020, 11:28 AM EDT Last updated Jun 23, 2020, 10:16 AM EDT | By Meredith J. Batt

Six virtual exhibits on this summer bring LGBTQ2 art from the gallery into your home 

A photo from 1995’s ‘Wigstock’ festival in New York City.
A photo from 1995’s ‘Wigstock’ festival in New York City. Credit: Pierre Dalpé, Courtesy Head On Festival

Even though we cannot physically celebrate together, it’s Pride Month, and many LGBTQ2 organizations around the world have taken the initiative to ensure that Pride events still happen virtually.

It hasn’t been an easy task, especially for queer and trans artists who can’t show their work in person. Many have faced unemployment, lost gigs and had to cancel events, and staying afloat has been difficult. It’s why, in this trying time, we need our queer artists more than ever—to tell our stories, give voice to our struggles and lift us up. Their work brings the glitz and the glam to Pride, and for those who are feeling down and isolated, their art is a perfect antidote.

If you can’t get out to celebrate this year, why not enjoy Pride from home while supporting LGBTQ2 artists? Here is a list of virtual queer art events and festivals from Canada and around the world that have gone virtual in honour of Pride Month.ADVERTISEMENT

Head On Photo Festival – Wigstock

Online through 2020

In celebration of Pride, the Australian Head On Photo Festival is featuring Montreal photographer Pierre Dalpé’s exhibition, Wigstock. Wigstock was an annual Manhattan drag festival held from 1984 to 2001, founded by American queen Lady Bunny. Dalpé documented this festival during the mid-1990s when Wigstock was at its most popular. Log on for free at Head On’s website and see the wonderful photos of glamorous queens (including the iconic RuPaul herself!) in their finest, having a blast in the New York sunshine.

Queer Cultural Centre – Aquí Estamos / Here We Are  

June 1–30

To mark Pride, San Francisco’s Queer Cultural Centre is hosting an online exhibition, Aquí Estamos / Here We Are—a collaboration between San Francisco Bay-area and Puerto Rican queer artists, curated by Juan Carlos Rodríguez Rivera. Influenced by the conditions of COVID-19 and the lockdown in Puerto Rico, these queer artists of colour respond to how our domestic space has shifted under the pressure of a pandemic. Artists Awilda Rodríguez Lora, Cristóbal Guerra, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Marcela Pardo Ariza and Pati Cruz will hold an Instagram takeover each Wednesday in June to share their work and conduct an online conversation on the Queer Cultural Centre’s Instagram. And on June 30, the artists and the curator will take part in a special roundtable discussion, Aquí Estamos Y Aquí Seguiremos / Here We Are and Here We Will Be, about reimagining domestic and safe spaces.

Queer Arts Festival – Wicked

July 16–26

The annual Vancouver Queer Arts Festival is one of the top five professional queer multidisciplinary arts festivals in the world—and this year, it’s going online. Inspired by the play Wicked, this year’s festival encourages us to think about the rise in the commodification of queer culture and how queer culture is used and marketed in a way that’s easy for heteronormative audiences to understand and interact with. “What do we lose—who do we lose—if we accept induction into the dominant order, and reframe ourselves as a ‘moral minority?’” organizers ask. The festival kicks off on July 16 with artparty!, featuring a panel discussion and virtual tour of the curated art exhibition led by artist Jonny Sopotiuk and showcasing participating artists Tom Hsu, Avram Finkelstein, Diyan Achjadi and Elektra KB. The Media Arts Centre, Vivo, will be holding Media Nights on July 18 (“Rapture Probe”) and July 19 (“Return to Sodom North”) to explore the change in media used at queer art festivals. Writers Hiromi Goto and Erica Isomura will hold an intergenerational conversation on the importance of mentorship for writers of colour on July 25 (A Conversation on Queer Mentorship). And, not to be missed, the Indigenous burlesque group, Virago Nation, will be holding the virtual performance Too Spirited on July 17.ADVERTISEMENT

To attend these events, register through Eventbrite. All events are free, but participants can donate to support the festival.

Queer|Art –  Queer|Art|Pride

June 2020

A still of two people kissing from the erotic horror film, 'The Hunger,' is among movies being screened during Queer|Art|Film.
Erotic horror film, ‘The Hunger,’ is among movies being screened during Queer|Art|Film. Credit: Courtesy Queer|Art|Film

Queer|Art, a website based in New York, supports queer artists who have lost the mentorship of queer artists taken by another global pandemic—the AIDS Crisis. To support LGBTQ2 artists during this difficult time, Queer|Art has created a list of resources for artists affected by COVID-19—and they are going ahead with their annual Queer|Art|Pride online summer festival. Events take place every Monday night in June through the video conferencing app Zoom. Support the festival and artists financially at the Book and Print Fair, where more than 30 artists will show their work for sale during the bi-weekly Show N’ Tell series. Plus, join a virtual tour called “This Used To Be Gay!” with art mentor Moe Angelos of New York’s East Village as well as a few Queer|Art|Film events.

Those interested can register through the Queer|Art site.

Queer Art @ Home

June 1–25

Feeling queer and creative? Fredericton, New Brunswick-based emerging artist, speaker and facilitator Al Cusack has assembled a series of eight art activity videos for the public Facebook group Queer Art @ Home. This group is open to queer individuals of all artistic skill levels with the goal of helping people connect during Pride. Videos will be released on Mondays and Thursdays this month featuring different prompts for colour and subject matter in the medium of your choice.

Cusack came up with the idea after reflecting on community and togetherness. “It’s Pride month and we have to forgo so many of our celebrations and commemorations,” he says. “I wanted to do something about this. I wanted there to be something for queer people of any age who feel alone.”ADVERTISEMENT

Cusack chose eight activities in homage to the original Pride Flag, designed by queer artist and activist Gilbert Baker. “While it might not feel like a big deal for those of us who have been out and active in the community for a long time,” Cusack explains, “it means a lot to people who are first coming out. It brings a lot of joy to see those colours.”

Watch Cusack explain how Queer Art @ Home will work in this introductory video, and get ready to share your progress and ask for constructive feedback or inspiration in the Facebook group.

Tate Britain – A Queer Walk Through British Art

June 2020

Wishing that you could join a gallery tour, but in the comfort of your home? LGBTQ2 artists, curators and filmmakers from around the U.K. chose some of their favourite works of art from the Tate Britain gallery and interpreted them as queer works of art. The interpretations are varied and influenced by their lived experiences, and they explore personal connections as well as how the piece of art speaks to each of them as a queer person. This free display is curated by E-J Scott, who curated the U.K. largest collection of trans artefacts, and includes selected works spanning more than 450 years.

In addition to this display, Tate Britain has a number of LGBTQ2 online resources, including a partnership with Channel 4’s short film strand Random Acts, featuring the stories of six LGBTQ-identifying people like Ian McKellen, Kareem Reid and Jackie Kay. There is even LGBTQ content for kids: Watch YouTuber Olly Pike explore five LGBTQ art Stories at the Tate Britain, and learn about bisexual painter Gwen John and gay artist David Hockney.ADVERTISEMENT

As these arts shows prove, we can still remain together in spirit, even if we’re physically far apart. Stay safe and happy Pride!

Editor’s note, Jun 23, 2020: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that RuPaul Charles was a founder of Wigstock. The story has been amended.This story is filed under  Arts & EntertainmentPrideProfileDIY Pride

Political art of living

Jewish Independent | June 12, 2020

Avram Finkelstein will be participating in the Queer Arts Festival, which takes place July 16-26. (photo by Alina Oswald)

A lot of it feels familiar, said New York-based artist and activist Avram Finkelstein about the current situation in the United States. The same American institutions that failed during the HIV-AIDS crisis are failing to effectively deal with the pandemic. And, when he was a teenager in the 1960s, cities were also being burned in America.

“It’s sad to think that we will be having the same struggles,” he told the Jewish Independent in a phone interview last week. “But, also, as you get older, you realize that progress is not a pendulum swing from left to right, it’s actually a spiral going forward and things do move to the right and they move to the left, but [there is] incremental change. So, part of me feels like we’re seeing the dying gasp of a world that I hope we’re leaving behind, and I see a world in the future that I want to live in. So that’s kind of helping me through this.”

Finkelstein was scheduled to come to Vancouver next month to participate in the Queer Arts Festival.

A founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives, as well as the political group ACT UP, he is the author of After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images (University of California Press, 2017). His artwork is part of the permanent collections of MoMA, the Smithsonian, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, to name but a few places, and his work has been shown around the world. He was set to unveil one of his new works in Vancouver. As it is, with the restrictions required to minimize the spread of COVID-19, he will be helping open the festival remotely, as part of a panel discussion chaired by curator Jonny Sopotiuk, which will also provide viewers with a tour of the festival’s art exhibition.

“I have a large mural that was going to be in the exhibition and now it’s going to be in a virtual space,” said Finkelstein. “I’m very excited about this piece and the fact that Jonny chose it – it’s the first time I’ve shown it…. I had a commission to do a work for the Shed, which is a new art space in New York, and, while I was waiting for the weaving tests of the final pieces – it’s a very large jacquard weaving – I decided to start drawing from the same source material as the cartoon for the weaving. I hadn’t drawn since recovering from a stroke; I had a stroke about two years ago…. I then realized that my hand isn’t my own, my body is no longer my own.”

The source material, he explained, “is a portrait of a gender-non-conforming friend who later transitioned. The work was all about corporeality as an abstraction and the ways in which we’re allowed to look at certain things, and what is public and what is private about gender and sexuality. And then, all of sudden, I realized, I’m actually talking about my own body in these drawings because my own body is not my own body anymore. I realized that I had made this sharp pivot from an abstract, theoretical idea of corporeality to this kind of war or dance, or I don’t know how to describe the physical process of having to use your entire body to hold a pencil.”

Despite the health, political and other challenges Finkelstein has faced, he remains hopeful.

“We’re trained to think that, if we don’t have hope, then the only thing that’s left is despair, but the truth is, hope isn’t so much the point – it’s the horizon that hope is sitting on and, so long as you can see a horizon, I think that, to me, is the same thing,” he said.

“I’m Jewish, as you know, and I think that Jews have a very different relationship to memory and to witnessing. If your people have been chased all over the globe for centuries, you take a long view. You sleep with one eye open, but you take a long view, and I think, therein, I’m eternally hopeful.”

In an interview in 2018, Finkelstein predicted that the situation in the United States would worsen before it improved.

“Which is another thing about being Jewish – you learn that there is no such thing as paranoia because it’s all real,” he said. “So, one could have seen, as plain as the nose on one’s face, where America was heading. And, in actual fact, what happened with Trump’s election was, we’ve joined the international march of global totalitarianism…. And, it’s not about to get really bad, it’s really, really bad. It’s really bad and I think that, here again, you can’t be Jewish and not think – not think your entire life, actually – in some way being prepared for, OK, what are the risks I’m willing to take if this happens? How far would I be willing to fight for other people if that happens. The shadow of Nazi Germany never escaped your consciousness.”

So how does Finkelstein conquer the fear?

“I guess I’ve replaced it with anxiety,” he said, laughing. But, he added, “I don’t know why I’m not fearful. I think that I was just raised – a day doesn’t go by that I’m not reminded of another lesson or another incident or another part of Jewish-American social history in the 20th century that my family was directly there for. I almost feel like I’m the Zelig of the left. All the stories you would tell my mother or my father, they’d be like, ‘Oh, yeah, we were there. We were there at the Robeson riots. Oh, yeah, we were there when they closed The Cradle Will Rock and everyone walked down the street’ – exactly the way it was in the last scene in Tim Robbins’ movie. When I saw it, it seemed too preposterous, I called my mother, said, ‘Could that have happened?’ And she started singing the song that Emily Watson sings in the film.

“So, I think I have such a sense of self that one could interpret it as fearlessness, but I think that it would be more accurate to say I was not given an alternative role model. I was raised to feel the suffering of others and, if other people are suffering, there’s no night’s sleep for me. So, there’s really no option – you’re either closing your eyes to something terrible or you’re doing everything you can to try and make it less terrible. And I think that that’s the Jewish condition.”

He described Jews as being like queer people. “We are everywhere,” he said. “We’re in every culture, we’re in every race, we’re in every gender, we’re in every country. We have every type of ethnic community that we surround ourselves with. An Ethiopian Jew is different from an Ashkenazi Jew, but we’re still all Jews.”

Though raised by atheists, he said, “I don’t think you’ll find anyone more Jewish than I am or than my family, but Jews are prismatic. We are many things. Consequently, I feel like I can’t speak on behalf of other Jews, I can only speak on behalf of myself.

“Likewise, I’ve always had people of colour in my family; I just always have. And, I learned very early on back in the ’60s, when the civil rights movement was fragmented between King and Stokely Carmichael and the Panthers, and everyone was choosing sides, I think that’s another example of what I’m talking about – there are many ways in which to be black. And so, I don’t feel like what I have to say about this current moment is anywhere near as important, essential, vital, critical … [as] a person of colour – what a person of colour has to say about this moment is much more important.”

image - The original Silence=Death poster has been adapted over the years by many people, including for use as a pin
The original Silence=Death poster has been adapted over the years by many people, including for use as a pin.

Finkelstein was one of the minds behind the now-iconic Silence=Death poster, which has been adapted over the years by many people. A variation of it could be seen in at least one of the recent protests. The original iteration encourages viewers to use their power and, for example, vote. In general, working towards solutions is an important part of Finkelstein’s activism.

“I think critiques are easier,” he said. “I think also we mistake public spaces, we mistake the commons, as a declarative space. I tend to think of it as an interrogative space. I think that, even in late-stage capitalism, when someone is trying to get you to put your money in a bank or go buy a soft drink, there’s something Socratic about the gesture of trying to get you to do something … you’re responding to it, you’re engaged in it, and that’s the interrogative part that I think is easy to overlook. And I think that’s where the answers are.

“I think that the way that the Silence=Death poster is structured is it’s really like a bear trap. We worked on it for nine months – the colour has certain codes and signifiers, and the triangle has another set of codes and we changed the colour of the triangle from the [concentration] camps and inverted it to obfuscate some of the questions about victimhood. And the subtext has two lines of text, one that’s declarative and one that’s interrogative, and the point size forces you into a performative interaction.”

This poster and other work with which Finkelstein has been involved include aspects that “people are very afraid to experience,” he said, “which is fallibility, mess-making and tension. And I find all of those things as generative, as kindness, support, community. They’re differently generative and … hearing so many people who are trying to figure out how to find their way in, as white people, into the conversations that are happening in America right now, is the same struggle as a young queer person trying to find their way into the AIDS crisis. I mentor a lot of young queer artists and activists and the first thing they say, their immediate impulse is, I have no right to this story, I wasn’t here, I didn’t live through it. To which my response is, immediately, you have every right to the story – it’s your story, it’s the story of the world…. Race is a white person’s problem. People of colour are paying the price for it, but the problem, the genesis of the problem, is whiteness. And we have to figure out how to talk about it…. But I think now is the time for listening.”

He said, “We have to know what our responsibilities are and this goes back to Judaism – our responsibilities as witnesses. You can’t let your discomfort change the importance of this moment or overshadow the importance of this moment.”

One of the things Finkelstein does is teach social engagement via flash collectives. “I think we’re never put into a position where people mentor our personhood,” he said. “We have people mentor us as computer programmers or healthcare providers or tax accountants or artists or writers, but … there’s something primeval which is missing in the way we’re acculturated, and the flash collective is almost shamanistic in that regard; it taps into this primal thing that is quite astonishing when you let it out.”

Understanding that he will not live forever, he said “the Silence=Death poster casts a very mighty shadow and it makes it very difficult for people to figure out how to make new work, if that’s what they think it has to be…. It became obvious to me that I could be talking about Silence=Death until the day I drop, but, one day, I am going to drop and I want other people to start making those new works and I thought this would be a way to get people to make new work.”

He described the collectives, which teach political agency, as being “like a stew of the top 10 hits of grassroots organizing in a condensed workshop that’s tailored to the individuals in the room.”

He said, “I believe that I don’t necessarily have to change the world because I know that there could be a teenager in 2050 who sees something that someone I worked with did that made them think of something else that I never would have thought of. That is the point of the work, not the how do I fix it before I’m gone, which is the dilemma of Larry Kramer [who passed away last month]. He really thought, and I think it’s really male, but it’s very men of a certain generation also – he really thought that he could fix the AIDS crisis, and it didn’t happen.”

Unfortunately, space doesn’t allow for most of what Finkelstein shared with the Independent about Kramer, who he described as “a complicated person.”

Kramer was a rhetorician, said Finkelstein. “And I’m a propagandist. We’re both rhetoricians in a way, but what was the dividing line that made Larry incapable of understanding the work that I did?… I felt like I understood his process better than he understood mine. And I started to think, well, here’s the difference between a person who articulates their rage with words and a person who articulates their rage with every tool in the toolbox…. Not to make myself sound superior, but I realized that I think of rage as sculptural; he thought of rage as rhetorical. I think of rhetoric as sculptural, I think of it as casting a shadow and activating social spaces. And I think that he was a Jewish gay man of a different generation and a lot of his rage was tied into his personal struggles. And I did not have those. I had other personal struggles, but I did not have them.”

As part of the Queer Arts Festival, Finkelstein will lead a flash collective on the question, “What does queer public space mean in a 21st-century pandemic?” He hopes the resulting work will be shown in a public space.

For more information about the festival, visit The next issue of the JI will feature an interview with QAF artistic director and Jewish community member SD Holman.

CBC arts Queeries: This exhibit explores queer Asian identity through the lens of China’s traditional five elements

CBC arts Queeries: This exhibit explores queer Asian identity through the lens of China’s traditional five elements

Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements is the brainchild of Vancouver media arts collective Love Intersections

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. It won the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada.

Many traditional Chinese fields use five elements — wood > fire > earth > metal > water — to explain a wide array of phenomena, from the interaction between internal organs to the succession of political regimes. At Vancouver’s SUM Gallery, that same system is currently inspiring Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements, an art exhibit that uses the elements to represent “the emotional, spiritual, and metaphysical properties of queerness within the Asian diaspora.”

The exhibit features a collection of multichannel installations, visual and sculptural activations that are intended to challenge how we view the past, present and future of the queer Asian experience. It’s curated by media arts collective Love Intersections, and if you’re in Vancouver between now and its closing date of April 18th, it’s an absolute must-see.

The exhibit was inspired by Love Intersection’s 2019 experimental documentary, Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny, which follows Vancouver drag artist Maiden China in a non-linear, five-chapter narrative through the use of the Chinese Five Elements.

“[The film is] a conduit for examining race, gender, sexuality, art and cultural authenticity,” Love Intersection co-creative directors Jen Sungshine and David Ng tell CBC Arts. “Encouraged by the film’s success, we were given an opportunity to expand the film into a visual art exhibit to further explore what it means for us to be queer Asians of the diaspora. One of the main through-lines of both the film and the exhibit is bringing forth our ancestors and ancestry into our reimaginations of queer Asian futures.”

An image from Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny. (David Ng)

Visitors to the exhibit will find four multi-disciplinary works by four different queer Asian artists: Sungshine and Ng themselves, as well as Jay Cabalu and Maiden China (a.k.a. Kendell Yen).

“Each bring forward a different subject of exploration within our own queer Asian-ness,” Sungshine says. “One of the themes of the exhibit is temporality, and how we can think about queer Asian identity outside of western linearity and approach.”

As noted, the exhibit is inspired by the Chinese Five Elements, specifically to explore “emotional, spiritual, and metaphysical properties of queerness within the Asian diaspora.” For example, one part of the large four-channel installation that occupies two of the gallery’s walls shows drag artist Maiden China performing an ancestral veneration ceremony at Larwill Park in Vancouver.

“[This] was the gathering site of the 1907 anti-Oriental riots, as a way to mark an image of the temporal relationship that this exhibit has within a history of anti-Asian sentiments in Canada,” Ng explains. “That ‘yellow peril’ has never really gone away.”

Another installation in the exhibit is “The Wall of Healing; A Race Towards a Cosmic Future,” which features an altar of Traditional Chinese Medicine against a backdrop of joss paper lined floor-to-ceiling.

“Underneath the altar, a cosmic laser projection is overlaid onto a scattering of calligraphy paper in text written by Jen’s father, detailing the evolving of the Chinese language in three different typefaces,” Ng explains. “In a way, we think about our past as not necessarily gone but fully woven into the language of the present, and translating our living as we race toward a healing future.”

The show opened earlier this month, and Ng and Sungshine said they feel “extremely lucky” to have had such an outpouring of support so far.

“Over 300 people showed up to our opening, holy moly,” Sungshine says. “Beyond just coming to see the exhibit, we really want to create a sense of space within the confines of SUM Gallery. In working with — and exhibiting at — SUM, we recognize how meaningful to showcase in [a building that is] home to over 70 artists, galleries and culture workspaces dedicated to heritage, education, social justice and sustainability. There is a lot of conversation right now around Vancouver’s changing Chinatown and what that means for residents navigating an increasingly challenging, and changing, landscape.”

They say that hope to express to visitors the importance of showcasing in such an environment. 

“We see ourselves as one small piece of the social puzzle, each of us weaving together a larger, multidimensional narrative of Chinatown,” Ng says. “We hope that visitors will confront what it means to stand up for land rights defenders, anti-racism and thoughtful cultural spaces as we continue having wholehearted conversations together.”

Yellow Peril; The Celestial Elements. Curated by Love Intersections. SUM Gallery, Vancouver. Until April 18, 2020.


Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada’s a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which received 2020 Canadian Screen Award nominations. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

Stonewall Was A Riot – Vancouver’s LGBTTQ2+ community bands together to Remember Stonewall

Originally published June 25, 2019 by MyVanCity

Stonewall Was A Riot… Now We Dance.

With the current tone set recently in Metro Vancouver over the removal of a Pride flag, defacement of Pride flags and the heated anti-transgender protest at the Art Gallery on June 15th, there is a renewed need locally to celebrate our LGBTTQ2+ pride on the eve of the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots that launched modern day “Pride”.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) in partnership with many of Vancouver’s LGBTTQ2+ organizations (Vancouver Pride Society, Zee Zee Theatre, The Frank Theatre Company, Qmunity, LOUD Business, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver Dyke March, Sher Vancouver, Rainbow Refugee and more) will come together on June 28th to celebrate our diversity and pride with an evening of song and celebration; to revel in a half century of queerevolution. This event is the only major celebration of the Stonewall anniversary currently scheduled to take place in the City of Vancouver.

We welcome Vancouver’s LGBTTQ2+ community and allies to Stonewall 50 – Glitter is Forever taking place at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews) in Vancouver. This event kicks off with the Queer Songbook Orchestra (7-9pm) and is immediately followed by the Stonewall 50 Glitter is Forever event at the same venue.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF), Vancouver’s artist-run, professional, multi-disciplinary roister of queer arts, culture and history, presents their 2019 festival rEvolution, well underway with a stellar line up of parties showcasing queer arts, culture and celebrations running June 17th – 28th 2019.  QAF has assembled nearly 100 artists and more than 20 events and programming showcasing a variety of differing media on exhibit at the Roundhouse Arts Centre.


Original article from Sad Mag June 17. Written by Rebecca Peng.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) is Vancouver’s artist-run festival of queer arts and culture, held every summer at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Now in its 11th year, the QAF is a multidisciplinary affair, presenting an art exhibition and performance series, as well as workshops, artist talks, panels, and screenings. This year’s festival, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, is organized around the theme of rEvolution, and focuses on the transgressive and transformative potential of queer art.

SAD Mag spoke to Landon Krentz, one of the performers and creators behind Jesse: An ASL Opera, a bi-cultural and bilingual production developed by Krentz, Debi Wong, and re:Naissance Opera. On June 24th, audiences are invited to attend a workshop reading of the first excerpts of this exciting collaboration.

JESSE. Photo via QAF.


SAD: Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired JESSE – and what, in particular, drew you to the medium of opera?

LANDON KRENTZ: The operatic world has traditionally excluded the Deaf community from the experience, and I wanted to address this gap by ensuring that Deaf theatre has a domain in the arts in all artistic forms. What drew me to opera was the opportunity to challenge the social norms in artistic spaces by integrating my beautiful language into the practice. Opera is rich in culture and history that I believe is parallel with Deaf culture and history. Our language, ASL, is very much like music. It has a series of movements and rhythm that has a wide musical range. ASL has the ability to express music; I will be singing in signs by using movements and math. It’s the perfect language to portray different emotional messages that are heard with the eyes. 

SAD: What considerations did you make when creating this signed opera? How were you guided by the form and its conventions – and how did you seek to subvert or change it?

LK: We are in the beginning stages of creating this opera and we have encountered many challenges. One of them is that Deaf theatre in Canada has been in a precarious state for a long time so there is a lack of formal artistic training that manifests as a lack of confidence with regards to Deaf artists and their guiding the artistic process. After many trials, errors, and conversations, I realized that in this theatrical and operatic context, the American Sign Language libretto must be created before the music is composed in order for the practice be utilized in ways that maintain the high quality and integrity of the language. This is opposed to adapting the ASL to the music and thus diminishing Deaf culture as a whole. 

The composer will compose in real time with me during the workshop while I sign the libretto. I will be embodying the role of a singer and challenging the convention of the “voice.” In my recent interview with Ai Media, I’ve received a comment on Facebook that I have tender hands and an expressive voice. We really love this comment because it shows how we are already affecting the Deaf community by allowing new art forms. 

SAD: You’re an individual who wears many hats, and one of them includes providing interpreters and ASL consultations to theatres. How has translating the works of others influenced your own practice?

LK: ASL Interpretation bookings is a service I took on to create a source of revenue for Deaf theatre, and in particular, the ASL Opera. I believe in providing services that are equitable, and that Deaf artists have the right to select interpreters. Hearing people do not understand the barriers that are mounted when interpreters are chosen without the participation of the Deaf community. It’s important to me that we recognize that hearing-run interpreting agencies have designed a system that allows them to profit from ASL interpreters, our Deaf culture and ASL. As the only Deaf-run interpreting agency in West Canada, I rely on hearing and interpreter allies to support my artistic practice, because it is my only means for artistic survival. 

I have a confession to make. For a number of years, I thought that having a Deaf consultant on creative teams was crucial. While it is important, I realize that the role of ‘consultant’ has very limited impact. I take full responsibility for my mistake and I have learned now that what is needed is Deaf-leadership. Hearing people cannot understand the demands of Deaf theatre, and that we need skilled Deaf professional artists to guide the artistic process in order to create intersectional practices that allow both Deaf and hearing artists to be seen and recognized for who they are. I am incredibly grateful for re:Naissance Opera and the team who allowed me to lead the project in order to serve marginalized, Deaf people who do not have the privilege of experiencing theatre. I ask theatre organizations to trust us, and let us Deaf artists lead the process for the best possible impact. This is the kind of work where we ask people to give up their position of power and allow space. It is not easy to do. However, the results for production are much more ideal. 

SAD: The theme of this year’s QAF is “rEvolution” – how do you see JESSE fitting into this theme?

LK: The current Canadian theatrical landscape is slowly changing, but Deaf artists are fighting for artistic spaces to create new works. JESSE is about the decolonization of hearing culture in the Deaf experience and finding liberation. The piece is helping the theatre community to understand and change in favour of better practices. 

SAD: What do you hope audiences will take away from JESSE?

LK: Deaf theatre is the best way to educate hearing people about Deaf culture. We hope that the audience will walk away with a new understanding of what is possible in theatre and to inspire them to consider hiring Deaf talents for their work. Deaf theatre for the Deaf is vital and necessary to improve the lives and safety of the Deaf community, as is the willingness and commitment from hearing artists to learn to adapt to their practice and become allies. 

QAF 2019 runs from June 17 to 28.

28 things to do in Vancouver this week: June 17 to 20

Posted in the DailyHive, June 17

What: An annual artist-run multi-disciplinary summer arts festival at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, BC. QAF produces, presents and exhibits with a curatorial vision favouring challenging, thought-provoking work that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue. Each year, the festival theme ties together a curated visual art exhibition, performing arts series, workshops, artist talks, panels, and media art screenings.

When: Monday, June 17 to Friday, June 28, 2018
Time: Various times
Where: The Roundhouse – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver; Sum gallery – 268 Keefer St, Vancouver
Tickets: Online

Posted in the DailyHive, June 17

7 Things to do in Vancouver Today

Posted: Daily Hive, June 17, 2019

What: An annual artist-run multi-disciplinary summer arts festival at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, BC. QAF produces, presents and exhibits with a curatorial vision favouring challenging, thought-provoking work that pushes boundaries and initiates dialogue. Each year, the festival theme ties together a curated visual art exhibition, performing arts series, workshops, artist talks, panels, and media art screenings.

When: Monday, June 17 to Friday, June 28, 2018
Time: Various times
Where: The Roundhouse – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver; Sum gallery – 268 Keefer St, Vancouver
Tickets: Online

See original post.


Original article from Sad Mag June 13, written by Rebecca Peng.

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) is Vancouver’s artist-run festival of queer arts and culture, held every summer at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Now in its 11th year, the QAF is a multidisciplinary affair, presenting an art exhibition and performance series, as well as workshops, artist talks, panels, and screenings. This year’s festival, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, is organized around the theme of rEvolution, and focuses on the transgressive and transformative potential of queer art.

In advance of the festival, SAD Mag spoke with Shaun Brodie, artistic director of the Queer Songbook Orchestra, a renowned national chamber ensemble that unearths the queer backstories and narratives in contemporary music.

Queer Songbook Orchestra, photo by Tanja Tiziana


SAD: Can you tell about the origins of Queer Songbook Orchestra? What was the inspiration? How did the ensemble come together?

SHAUN BRODIE: The QSO formed in 2014. It came about after about a decade of working as a freelance musician with many indie-pop bands throughout Canada, and finding myself post-30 and kind of at loose ends. I didn’t feel as though the work I was doing was necessarily sustainable for a lifetime and, beyond that, I wanted to find work that I could be more invested in. I’ve long had an interest in storytelling and little-known histories, and combined with my queer identity and background in music, the idea slowly formed to create something that would allow these elements to intersect and, hopefully, be of service to the community. I started calling up friends – I was fortunate to already know many fantastic musicians, queer and allied – to see if they would be interested, and they all very enthusiastically agreed. We did our first show at the legendary – and now defunct – space ‘Videofag’ here in Toronto, a small storefront-style space for queer art and performance run by William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill. That was March of 2014, and in the five years since we’ve toured all over Canada, worked with over 150 collaborators, and shared endless stories of queer experience from the stage.

SAD: From a performer’s perspective, what makes playing with the Queer Songbook Orchestra different from other ensembles or projects?

SB:I had never played shows prior to the QSO that were so centred around narrative. There’s always stage banter from the singer/bandleader and that type of thing, but with the QSO the audience finds themselves on a journey of queer lives and experiences. Some which may reflect their own, and some which might be quite different. There is a vulnerability to hearing these deeply personal stories shared, and it ends up feeling like all of us – performers and audience – are in a safe space where we are caring for each other. That’s a unique sensation.

SAD: How do you decide what songs to play? What’s the process of creating a show?

SB: Our repertoire is largely decided by the community. Since forming we’ve had a sort of general call out for folks within the 2SLGBTQ community to send us their stories of queer experience and the songs that are most deeply connected to them. So we will receive these pairings of story and song, and will go about building our shows from them. We also include historical narratives, usually of popular songs that have a little-known queer backstory. So there is often a balance of these approaches in a show.

Queer Songbook Orchestra, photo by Tanja Tiziana.


SAD: Speaking to this year’s QAF theme, “rEvolution”: How has turning to the past in this way, unearthing or rereading queer narratives in music, changed your perspective on those eras – and shaped your visions or aspirations for queer futures?

SB:Digging into these histories and being trusted with the personal stories of our peers in the community, it’s a great privilege to carry these narratives with us and deliver them to audiences across the country. It also gives us an insight into the integrity and character of the community through the generations, and the beauty and brilliance of queer individuals even in times of great hardship and isolation. Of course we are not out of the woods in terms of hardship and isolation, and having this perspective on the past and an insight into younger generations, one can’t help but have a sense that whatever the BS of the current times and political landscape, there is within the community the strength to resist and persist towards a better and more inclusive, compassionate future.

SAD: What’s the motivation behind putting these stories, told through the music of these past several generations, with modern, local narratives? How do you feel they enrich each other?

SB:I think it’s important to emphasize lineage. There tends to be a disconnect between generations in the queer community, and so to present an evening which places stories from the past alongside more contemporary narratives it can I think help to give people a sense of this lineage: who has come before us, and where we might see ourselves within it. The hope is that this can lead to more connections forming and people feeling they are part of a broader community.

SAD: What can audiences look forward to in this year’s Queer Arts Festival Performance?

SB: We haven’t played in Vancouver since January 2016. In the past three and a half years the QSO has grown immensely and really developed our material. So, for anyone who saw us back then they can expect a very different show, but one that still delves deep into many facets of queer experience. For anyone new to our shows, they can expect an intimate, tender and joyous evening which explores and elevates queer lives and aims to unite the audience around these experiences. Additionally, we always look to the local community to find collaborators for our shows, guests to be our narrators and deliver the stories we are telling alongside the songs. So the audience can look forward to seeing their own local community and friends reflected from the stage.

Queer Songbook Orchestra, photo by Tanja Tiziana.


SAD: What are you most excited about for this year’s Queer Arts Festival?

SB:Sadly we are only able to be in Vancouver for the tail end of the festival, so what I am mostly looking forward to are the bits that we are actually able to attend. Those being our show on June 28 and the party following it. It’s really exciting to be able to present a show that is aligned with the Stonewall anniversary, and while I always look forward to QSO shows, this one just feels extra special. And, as always, I am excited to meet and work with our local collaborators!

QAF 2019 runs from June 17 to 28. For more information and the purchase tickets, visit the Queer Arts Festival website.

Original article from Sad Mag June 13, written by Rebecca Peng.

5 Things to do this weekend: Friday, June 14, 2019

By Jon AzpiriOnline News Producer  Global News

Here are five things to do around the province this weekend.

1 — 5X Festival Block Party
June 15
Central City Plaza, Surrey

2 — Queer Arts Festival
June 17-28
Various locations, Vancouver

3 — Father’s Day Open House
June 16, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Historic Stewart Farm, Surrey

4 — Father’s Day Old Car Sunday in the Park
June 16, 10 a.m.
Fraser River Heritage Park, Mission

5 — Truck Stop Concert Series
June 15
Red Truck Beer Company, Vancouver

First posted by Jon AzpiriOnline News Producer  Global News