Mark Takeshi McGregor will succeed SD Holman as artistic director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival

by Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight on August 16th, 2021

One of Vancouver’s most influential queer arts administrators is going to take a well-deserved respite.

SD Holman cofounded the Queer Arts Festival 14 years ago and in 2018, founded SUM, which is the festival’s year-round programming arm.

At the close of this year’s Queer Arts Festival on August 13, Holman publicly announced that this would be the last under their direction. Holman, who served as executive and artistic director, is a self-described gender anarchist who uses a mix of pronouns.

I’m proud of the artistic triumphs we’ve achieved together,” Holman said in a statement, “including Jonathan D. Katz’s Drama Queer curation; the 25th-anniversary reunion of the notorious Kiss & Tell collective; Jeremy Dutcher’s first full-length Vancouver concert; UnSettled, the world’s first entirely Two-Spirit-curated festival; the commissioning and the world premiere of When the Sun Comes Out by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose, Canada’s first lesbian opera; and co-producing the multi-award-winning world premiere of Lesley Ewen’s play Camera Obscura (hungry ghosts).”

Holman’s replacement as artistic director is Mark Takeshi McGregor, a former executive director of the Powell Street Festival as well as an acclaimed flutist. He begins in this new position on October 1.

“As a musician and visual artist, I’ve enjoyed close ties with this organization for over fifteen years and I’ve witnessed firsthand how it has grown and evolved,” he said. “None of this would have been possible without the passion and tenacity of SD Holman, who leaves us with an inspiring legacy of queer arts and culture… and massive shoes to fill! I’m looking forward to working with our incredible staff, board of directors, volunteers, and community to continue challenging norms, breaking barriers, and inspiring discourse.”

Holman was born in Hollywood and graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 1990. Holman’s work as an artist and curator has addressed themes of sex, death, and identity, according to a Queer Arts Festival profile.

In a 2018 article written for the Straight by queer journalist V.S. Wells, Holman conceded that they didn’t expect everyone to like or even understand the Queer Arts Festival.

In a column on two years earlier, Holman wrote about the violence that has been inflicted on queer people simply as a result of their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

It came in the wake of an attack on an LGBT+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“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?” Holman wrote. 

“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.” 

On a lighter note, Holman, along with Fay Ness and Stephanie Goodwin, came up with the idea of calling 2018 the “Year of the Queer” in Vancouver.

It coincided with 15 Vancouver LGBT organizations celebrating milestone achievements.

One of those was the Queer Arts Festival, which was then approaching its 10th anniversary.

This change at the Queer Arts Festival follows a series of changes in leadership at a few other locally based queer organizations, including Vancouver PrideRainbow Refugee, and Health Initiative for Men

Mark Takeshi McGregor takes helm of Pride In Art Society as SD Holman steps down


THE PRIDE IN Art Society board has announced that SD Holman is stepping down from its helm after 14 years.

Musician Mark Takeshi McGregor will take on the role as artistic director of the multidisciplinary queer arts organization. Holman announced the exit on August 13 at the closing party of the 2021 Queer Arts Festival, which Pride in Art has run online and in person for the last few weeks.

Holman cofounded the Queer Arts Festival, and then later, in 2018, established SUM, QAF’s year-round programming arm and Canada’s only queer-mandated gallery. (Pride In Art began in 1998 as a collective of LGBT visual artists mounting a community art exhibition.)

“I’m proud of the artistic triumphs we’ve achieved together,” Holman said in the announcement yesterday, “including Jonathan D. Katz’s Drama Queer curation; the 25th-anniversary reunion of the notorious Kiss & Tell collective; Jeremy Dutcher’s first full-length Vancouver concert; UnSettled, the world’s first entirely Two-Spirit-curated festival; the commissioning and world premiere of When the Sun Comes Out by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose, Canada’s first lesbian opera; and co-producing the multi-award-winning world premiere of Lesley Ewen’s play Camera Obscura (hungry ghosts).”

SD will continue as founding artistic director emeritus. 

Internationally acclaimed flute innovator and former Powell Street Festival artistic director McGregor said he was “thrilled” to join the Pride in Art family.

 “As a musician and visual artist, I’ve enjoyed close ties with this organization for over 15 years and I’ve witnessed firsthand how it has grown and evolved,” he said in the press statement. “None of this would have been possible without the passion and tenacity of SD Holman, who leaves us with an inspiring legacy of queer arts and culture… and massive shoes to fill! I’m looking forward to working with our incredible staff, board of directors, volunteers, and community to continue challenging norms, breaking barriers, and inspiring discourse.”

Holman returns to the studio to resume full-time artistic practice, remaining available to the organization for mentorship and organizational history. 

“As QAF and SUM grow and evolve, my hope is that the organization will stay Avant-Garde and Contemporary,” Holman added in the statement. “Life is short and art is long–or as the Guerrilla Girls say, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. This work is a relay, and it’s time to pass the torch. I am delighted to be leaving the organization in inspired and capable hands.”  

Queer Arts Festival addresses and postpones controversial Piano Burning performance at East Vancouver cemetery

by Craig Takeuchi, Georgia Straight, on August 6th, 2021 at 1:57 PM

A scheduled performance at an East Vancouver cemetery involving fire has been postponed after after facing online comments, criticism, and questions.

In response, the Queer Arts Festival (QAF), which began on July 24 and continues until August 13, released a statement today (August 6) from artistic and executive director SD Holman about a planned revisioning of Annea Lockwood’s 1968 conceptual art piece Piano Burning, scheduled to be performed on August 8 at Mountain View Cemetery, located at 5455 Fraser Street.

Lockwood’s instructions for the piece are as follows: 

Set an upright piano (not a grand) in an open space with the lid closed. 
Spill a little lighter fluid on a twist of paper and place inside, near the pedals. 
Light it. Balloons may be stapled to the piano. 
Play whatever pleases you for as long as you can.

Although the QAF has a fire permit for the performance, it is postponing the performance to comply with the provincial fire ban.

This performance is separate from Ceremony for Rebel Spirits, which will be performed by dancer Alvin Tolentino and Onibana Taiko on August 7 at the same cemetery. 

Holman’s addressed the reaction to the Piano Burning event by providing an explanation of how the performance is based in Indigenous culture.  

Holman explained that burning plays a role in many Indigenous cultures and that Canada had banned Indigenous use of fire for a century “as part of Canada’s campaign of cultural genocide”.

After the ban was lifted, Holman stated, two-spirit people continued to experience “barriers to full participation in ceremony despite the place of honour they traditionally held”.

In addition, colonialism introduced European-based gender-defined roles, which Holman pointed out was reinforced through residential schools.

“Even today, Canada periodically bans Indigenous ceremonies, citing public health or safety, indifferent to the deep psychological and spiritual wounds this causes,” Holman stated.

The performance is intended to be a “public declaration of reclamation and empowerment” by focusing on two-spirit artists: elder Sempúlyan; composer Russell Wallace, who created a new composition for the performance; designer Evan Ducharme, who created a fire-proof gown; and Squamish Nation councilor Orene Askew (DJ O Show), who asked to light the fire. Interdisciplinary artist Margo Kane, of Cree and Saulteaux Nations, and her company Full Circle First Nations Performance also provided cultural expertise for the curation.

“Honoured two-spirit elder Sempúlyan wanted to speak at Piano Burning about the spiritual role of fire to communicate with the ancestors; items placed in the fire are sent as offerings to the dead now in the spirit world,” Holman stated.

In addressing criticism about using fire in a performance amid the B.C. wildfires, Holman pointed out that the colonial fire ban “outlawed Indigenous forestry practices and ecological stewardship that included controlled burns to remove potential fire sources.

“Canadian forestry policy paternalistically discounted Indigenous knowledge,” Holman stated.

In response to questions about why a piano is being burned, Holman explained that pianos represent “arguably the peak achievement of European industrialization”.

Russell entitled his composition “A Clean Start”, which pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwassa would perform on the piano, which reflects hopeful outlooks, ranging from a post-pandemic restart to reconciliation and respect.

Iwassa is also slated to perform “Fonax Chemica” by composer Jeffery Ryan, which refers to an “alchemical crucible in which fire magically transforms lead into gold, or base materials into the philosopher’s stone”.  

“This collaborative revisioning of Piano Burning invites settlers to witness Indigenous ways of knowing in which we burn not what we despise, but what we cherish,” Holman said. “Annea’s 1968 conception of Piano Burning asks us to confront our terror of change and loss.”

Holman added that while fire is destructive, it is also “purifying, transformative, catalytic, life-sustaining”.

This year’s theme for the arts festival is Dispersed: It’s Not Easy Being Green…, which reflects upon climate issues as well as those who are marginalized.

In response to questions about the event’s impact upon the environment, Holman noted that any harm done by burning one piano is “infinitesimally small in the context of the capitalist growth economy”.

The performance of Piano Burning has been rescheduled to the autumn, with a specific date yet to be confirmed.

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.

Queer Arts Festival postpones Piano Burning, releases statement about fire ban


Updated: THE QUEER ARTS Festival has decided to postpone its Piano Burning concert due to the fire ban.

Though the fest had a fire permit, it’s going to comply with the provincial fire ban and delay the performance at Mountain View Cemetery until a to-be-announced date in the fall (see the full letter below).

It seems that some community members saw the performance, which was meant to comment directly on some of the reasons BC is engulfed in forest fires this season, to be tone deaf to the fact there are wildfires raging. Some also questioned how the performance fit into the fest’s green eco theme this year.

As Stir previously reported, Full Circle First Nations Performance and the Queer Arts Festival’s had planned to feature musician Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will play a new piece commissioned from Lil’wat composer Russell Wallace—all while re-enacting the idea behind New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood’s Piano Burning, a composition that called for a pianist to set the instrument alight. Biut in this presentation, curated by SD Holman and Margo Kane, the idea was to reframe the fire that engulfs the dilapidated piano (a symbol of colonial European culture) as a metaphor for striving toward decolonization. The act also refers to the banned fire rituals from Indigenous cultures: as stated in a letter from the artistic director below, “the colonial fire ban also outlawed the time-tested Indigenous forestry practice of controlled fires”.

Here is the letter in full from artistic director Holman:


Stir Cheat Sheet: 5 things to know about the fiery Piano Burning at the Queer Arts Festival, August 8


AS WILDFIRES rage across BC, a timely performance this weekend will ignite discussion—along with a piano

Full Circle First Nations Performance and the Queer Arts Festival’s presentation of Piano Burning, in which star musician Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will play a new piece commissioned from Lil’wat composer Russell Wallace—all while her keyboard goes up in flames.

Drawing on the idea behind New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood’s Piano Burning, a composition that called for a pianist to set the instrument alight, this presentation puts a timely new lens on the idea: here, the collaborating artists—curated by SD Holman and Margo Kane—reframe the fire that engulfs the piano (a symbol of colonial European culture) as a metaphor for striving toward decolonization. The act also refers to the banned fire rituals from Indigenous cultures.

There’s much, much more to the performance. Here are five things to know about it:

#1: Annea Lockwood’s original 1968 composition directs the performer to soak paper in lighter fluid, set it alight, and drop it into the piano. She asks that the performer use an upright piano that is beyond repair, saying, “Piano burning should really be done with an upright piano; the structure is much more beautiful than that of a grand when you watch it burn.” Balloons may be stapled to the structure, and the pianist can play whatever pleases them, for as long they can. The New York Times has called Lockwood a “composer of audacious experimental works on the border of musical performance and conceptual art.”

#2: Métis womenswear designer Evan Ducharme has created a fireproof red ballgown for pianist Iwaasa to don during the performance. Ducharme launched an eponymous clothing label a decade ago, and has built a name designing through Indigenous perspectives on gender, queerness, and environmental responsibility. You’ve seen Ducharme’s work at Indigenous fashion week, and on the pages of

piano burning.jpeg

#3: What exactly does it sound like when a piano goes up in flames? The performance will amplify the experience. Along with Wallace’s music, you’ll hear what’s described as “a variety of pitched and unpitched sounds as the piano strings heat and break.” If there are balloons, expect popping near the end. And visually? Past piano fires have been described as slow burns, layer after layer disintegrating, sometimes with coloured flames due to different varnishes.

#4: Russell Wallace is a composer, producer, and traditional singer from the Lil’wat Nation, with music heard across film and TV soundtracks and theatre and dance productions across the continent. Wallace also has a way with words, as one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast and as an alumnus of the UBC Creative Writing program. He has written poetry, short fiction, theatre, and music theatre. You might remember him the artist in residence at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2019.

#5: Organizers say they are drawing directly upon calls from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Article 11 of the former emphasizes Indigenous peoples’ right to “practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as…designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature”. Meanwhile, the latter report calls for “safe and dedicated ceremony and cultural places and spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and adults, and to advocate for 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in all cultural spaces.”

Queer Arts Festival’s Language as a Virus takes storytelling in radical directions, to August 13

Queer Arts Festival presents Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories around False Creek and online, to August 13


MUSIC, SOUND ART, individuals’ recordings, and power transmitters—Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories is an event unlike any other at Queer Arts Festival 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green.

The sonic-art installation by Bobbi Kozinuk happens in two forms. The first is a “walking radio” tour around False Creek. People need an FM radio or QR-enabled phone. The other is an online experience.

The event is described as an experiment in radical storytelling. The thematic focus, meanwhile, is on the effect of the pandemic on queer and diverse communities.

Community-submitted recordings mix with sound art and music to become soundscapes that are broadcast on low-power transmitters along the water’s edge. Participants will find advertisements for the project at transmitter hubs and participating community centres throughout Metro Vancouver. These posters have QR codes that, when scanned, allow people access to a selection of stories.

The public is invited walk along False Creek and listen in on their FM radio or QR-enabled phone and to visit the Isolation website to contribute their own stories and tune into location-specific channels.

For more information, see QAF.  

Live music guide: Concerts to catch at Metro Vancouver parks, stages, and public spaces this summer


LIVE MUSIC IS back, and it’s never sounded more joyful than in our (getting-there) post-pandemic world. Here are a few places to find it this summer. Check individual websites for the latest health and safety information.

Keep your eye on this page for updates, and we’ll add more concerts to the list as shows are announced.

Music in the Courtyard

To September 5 at the Firehall Arts Centre

From Arabic avant-garde and vocal-driven art pop to sitar and soulful blues, the Music in the Courtyard series is as daring as it is diverse. Presented by the Firehall Arts Centre and the Vancouver Independent Music Centre (VIM), the 2021 series runs July 30 to September 5. Performances take place outdoors in Firehall’s courtyard Wednesdays to Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 3 pm PDT (with one exception: the Sunday, August 1 concert is at 7 pm). The lineup features M’Girl (July 30), Haram (July 31, presented in partnership with Vancouver Folk Music Festival), Gentle Party (with guest curator Peggy Lee, August 1), Small Town Artillery (with guest opener Aza Nabuko, August 4 and 5), Microcosmos Quartet (August 6), the C.R. Avery Orchestra (presented in partnership with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival on August 7), Only a Visitor (August 8), Emily Molloy with opener Cat Madden (August 12), Murray Porter (August 13), Mohamed Assani Trio (August 14), Tonya Aganaba (August 15), Ad Mare with guest artist Julia Nolan (August 20), the History of Gunpowder (August 21), Rumba Calzada (August 22), Ophelia Falling (August 25), Quatuor André Lachance (August 27), Electronica Night (August 28 with x41: ambient; Hitori Tori: breakcore; and Sara Gold: drone), and the Brad Turner Quartet (August 29).

That’s not all.

On September 2, rice and beans presents Made in Canada: an agricultural song cycle. Originally slated as a live theatre show titled Made in Canada: an agricultural operetta, the work evolved into an album of 10 songs composed by Mishelle Cuttler. Blending mariachi influences with lyrics sourced from actual words of seasonal temporary foreign workers, news articles, and legal text surrounding the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the musical journey tells the stories of the people who harvest our food.

From there, Alvaro Rojas’ Gran Kasa plays September 3 (guest curator, Peggy Lee); Handmade Blade performs September 4 (guest curator, Peggy Lee), and Alpha Yaya Diallo closes out the series on September 5.

Kay Meek Music Series

August 12 to 26 at the Kay Meek Centre

In addition to various virtual offerings, West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Arts Centre a lineup of live music that makes it worth crossing a bridge. It all starts August 12, with a performance by Marin Patenaude (vocals, piano, guitar) and electric guitarist Cole Schmidt. (This show, along with many others, will also be streamed online.) On August 19, the C.R. Avery Storm Collective takes to the stage.

Sea to Sky Chamberfest happens August 21 Pianist Ian Parker, cellist Joseph Elworthy, and violinist Jonathan Crow join aspiring pre-professionals with selections from Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and more.

On August 26, pedal-steel player Scott Smith and guitarist Tony Wilson perform Buddy and Lenny, in homage to Buddy Emmons and Lenny Breau. Joined by bassist James Meger and drummer Liam Macdonald, they, will play the entire 1970s album Minors Aloud, which was recorded in Nashville and became a hard-to-find classic and a must-listen for guitarists.


Vancouver Bach Festival

August 3 to 5 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Early Music Vancouver presents Bach’s Sons on August 3 at the Chan Shun Concert Hall with cellist Elinor Frey, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and music director Alexander Weimann as part of the 2021 Vancouver Bach Festival. The works illustrate the language of Sensibility (Empfindsamkeit): intimate, sensitive, and subjective where the beauty of melody shines. (Note that this event, like other EMV offerings listed here, are recording sessions for Early Music Vancouver’s Digital Concert Hall and not traditional concerts.)

On August 4 and in that same EMV vein, the works selected by Mélisande Corriveau and Eric Milnes for Pardessus in Paradise reflect musical styles formed in pre- Revolution France.

EMV closes its Bach Festival on August 5 with two solo Bach cantatas performed by its artist-in-residence, Jonathon Adams, a Two-Spirit, nêhiyaw michif (Cree-Métis) baritone specializing in early music performance, and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra led from the organ and harpsichord by Alexander Weimann.


Blueridge Chamber Music Festival

August 7 to 15 at the Orpheum Annex and Polygon Gallery

The fest presents live concerts—all free—with four centuries of chamber-music masterworks exclusively composed by women.

On August 7, the Blueridge Mainstage series opens with Three Sisters: an evening of piano at the Orpheum Annex. Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G Minor shares the program with Germaine Tailleferre’s Piano Trio and Cécile Chaminade’s second trio.

It’s over to the Polygon Gallery on August 8 for trailblazing Montreal-based Baroque cellist Elinor Frey. Warming by the Fire offers new works by Vancouver composer Jennifer Butler and Toronto-based Cree composer Cris Derksen with a twist:  each piece invites audiences to participate in the performance with optional atmospheric sounds and gestures. Rounding out the program are works by American composer Pauline Oliveros, who is known for experimenting with “sonic awareness” and “deep listening” to break down barriers between performers and audiences. Warming by the Fire happens August 12 at the Orpheum Annex and August 15 at the Polygon.

And on August 14, Blueridge Festival presents Music from the Edge at the Orpheum Annex. The program features 20th century works by composers Alexina Louie, Rebecca Clarke, and Sofia Gubaidulina.

Summer Pop-Up Concerts with Music on Main

August 9 to 31 in Vancouver parks

These free evening concerts will take place at various Vancouver parks from August 9 to 31, with the full schedule being announced on August 5.

Vines Art Festival

August 9 to 18 at Vancouver parks

The festival highlights artists and underrepresented voices who work toward land, water, and relational justice and presents work for free on “earthstages”—everyday, populated, and natural public spaces in Vancouver and beyond. The grassroots event features combines art disciplines of all kinds on each of its programs, all to connect people and awaken them to the environment and their souls.

Among the artists performing at Vines’ Re-Opening Ceremonies at St’ít’eweḵw’ (Stanley Park’s Second Beach) on August 9 are Kwiigaay iiwaans & Kimit Sekhon, who will perform an electronic music and lighting show featuring iiwaans’ vocals in the Haida and Squamish languages; singer-songwriter Janelle Reid; and Mad Riddim, founded by drummer Richard Brown and bassist Matt Reid.

Anessa Lefan Yuen–whose debut album, What Holds Us Together, co-created with Thomas Hoeller, will be released next year—performs as part of Our Stories Embodied. It takes place August 11 at X̱í7nam̓ut | New Brighton Park

Stl’a7shn-chef—Our Feast on August 14 at Trout Lake Park is a blind and low-vision-friendly event featuring a vast array of performance art, movement, storytelling, and more, plus the Clown Parade. Magnifuego & Friends will perform a fusion of South American Andean folk music mixed with Latin Rock elements; Sudanda plays the music of Alaaledin Abdalla, a composer and musician from Sudan., with oudh/vocals, guitar, accordion, trumpet/bass, trombone, and percussion.

Hip-hop and spoken-word artist Á’a:líya, who was born and raised in her home community of Skowkale within the Coast Salish Territory, is among the performers at Resilient Roots on August 18 at Trout Lake Park.


Queer Arts Festival

August 7 and 13, Mountain View Cemetery and Sun Wah Centre

Find live music—kick-ass taiko drumming, in particular—as well as dance at Ceremony for Rebel Spirits at Mountain View Cemetery on August 7, featuring Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolentino. Plus, DJ O Show spins on the rooftop of the Sun Wah Centre at Glitter Forever: Closing Party on August 13.


Open Space Saturdays

July 31 through August at the Massey Theatre

Every summer Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm, the outdoor areas around New Westminster’s Massey Theatre come alive, with family-friendly activities from Jenga to open-mic poetry to Zumba. The July 31 Buskers Stage lineup features Gwen Davies, Jason Bonhomme, and Jasmine Stacey while the Ed, Salve and Friends musical extravaganza features MJ Ancheta, Daunties Band, CrackerJacks Band, and more.

De l’Art Queer aux Quatre Coins de la Ville

Pour la première fois de son histoire, le Festival des arts queer de Vancouver propose une programmation hybride qui se déploie aux quatre coins de la ville. Un reportage de Lyne Barnabé. 28 juillet 2021. CBC Radio Canada Ici Télé.

Queer Arts Festival’s visual-art exhibition turns apocalyptic dread into artworks for change


Queer Arts Festival 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green runs July 24 to August 13 online and in-person at various venues. It’s not easy being green: a Curated Visual Arts Exhibition runs the same dates at Sun Wah Centre’s lower ground floor, with a tour on July 27 at 5 pm PDT.

WHEN THE TEAM at Pride in Art Society was planning the theme for Queer Arts Festival 2021, it was a different time: events like it are typically devised years in advance, and nobody had even heard of COVID-19. What was top of mind was the climate crisis, with Greta Thunberg sounding the alarm while sailing the Atlantic. It was settled: the theme for this year’s fest and its curated visual-art exhibit would be “it’s not easy being green”.

Enter the pandemic, and the novel coronavirus took over everything, bumping the environmental emergency out of the headlines. However, the 2021 fest’s it’s-not-easy-being-green theme remains as relevant now as it was before the virus entered our lives—maybe even more so.

It works on multiple levels beyond the obvious difficulties humans are having at keeping the planet green. There’s green as a representation of land, tying into Indigenous rights and sovereignty and the ongoing effects of colonization. It represents evergreen issues such as renewal, growth, and the supernatural on one hand and power, greed, and poison on the other. There are pop culture underdogs, anti-heroes, and oddities who are green, from Kermit the Frog to Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West to the Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda. Green is also the colour of aliens, or others.

“In early 2019 when we chose ‘it’s not easy being green’, there was this apocalyptic fear and dread referred to as the climate catastrophe,” QAF artistic and executive director SD Holman tells Stir by phone. “Indigenous-led anti-pipeline demonstrations shut down Canada, and more people recognized that we are interdependent with the Earth and animals for our very survival. The climate situation seemed to be pressing down like this tidal wave; it seemed like there was this worldwide acknowledgment that this was happening. Right on the heels of that, the pandemic happened and shoved aside everything. Then there was plastic—lots and lots of plastic.”

And then people around the world were asked to stay home and away from other people.

“I feel like the mainstream learned about isolation and about space and what it’s like to feel unsafe in public, in danger of standing too close to somebody—the wrong person—the fear of stepping outside of one’s home or family bubble, which could mean death,” says Holman, a queer award-winning image-based artist. “Queers and marginalized people have felt that their whole lives. ‘It’s not easy being green’ still resonated. The pandemic and all of those risk factors are all too familiar to radicalized and queer people and all the people in the margins.”

Holman curated it’s not easy being green: A Curated Visual Art Exhibition with two-spirit artist Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour; they will lead a tour with guest artists on July 27.

“The announcement of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc confirmation of 215 unmarked graves of children, then 725-plus took its toll, and the numbers continue to rise,” McNeil-Seymour says. “The Cancel Canada Day rally at Vancouver Art Gallery where Sarah Brooke Cadeau and Audrey Siegl’s truth speak reverberated off the glass and concrete of downtown Vancouver, waking the hearts and minds of the thousands that gathered to show us all what love looks like. 

“The culmination of these ongoing events comes at a cost,” McNeil-Seymour says. “Preparing for show readiness is a heavy labour. The heavy emotional labours are especially felt by artists and visionaries. It’s not easy being green—indeed.”

The exhibition features an eclectic group of artists from across Canada and as far away as India working in photography, sculpture, drawing, painting, printmaking, film, and other disciplines. Here, they upcycle and recycle apocalyptic fear and dread into artwork and social change.

Featured artists include Beric Manywounds, Blake Angeconeb Chad Baba, Duane Isaac, Falak Vasa, Grace House, Ho Tam, Isaac Murdoch (whose Ojibway name is Manzinapkinegego’anaabe / Bombgiizhik), Jay Pahre, Kali Spitzer, Katherine Atkins, Kathleen Ross, Manuel Axel Strain, Oluseye, Pablo Muñoz, Preston Buffalo, Tejal Shah, and Tsohil Bhatia.

“We have invited featured artists from around the globe, from diverse contexts,” McNeil-Seymour says. “Duane Isaac is a stand-out for us. Like Isaac, the exhibition’s relationship-building with the featured artists; the storytelling of their process, vision…made us, made me take pause. The artists gathered here are amplifying the ripples of change.”

Holman, whose project Butch: Not Like the Other Girls toured North America in 2014 and is available in book form in its second edition, is proud of the Queer Arts Festival, which is one of just a handful of its kind in the world. Holman also founded SUM Gallery, the only mandated queer visual-art gallery in Canada at present. “I hope there’s more,” Holman says. “I salute those ones who came before. They died of exhaustion or gentrification or both.”

QAF 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green takes place online and in-person, making the 2021 event the first in the fest’s 13-year history to take on a hybrid format. Last year’s edition was fully virtual, the hope being to reach as many people as possible despite the pandemic. It worked: the fest doubled its audience and had viewers from 50 countries on six continents. What was especially remarkable, Holman says, was that those nations included ones where people could be killed for being part of a queer activity. Holman wanted to maintain that potential to connect with people near and far this year while also offering in-person events, once it was deemed safe to do so. There’s a movie night on the rooftop of Sun Wah Centre, a dance and music performance in Vancouver’s cemetery, and opening and closing parties. (For the full program, see QAF.)

Promoting queer art is hard and at times seemingly thankless work, Holman admits, but it’s always necessary, and sometimes it’s life-altering or even life-saving.

“I don’t think of myself as ambitious, but I do have a lot of drive, and I want it to be good,” Holman says. “I want the recognition for the artists who are doing some of the finest work through history, period. We still know the terrible statistics: two-spirit and queer people of colour are the most vulnerable youth to suicide and bullying. Those statistics hit you in the face all the time. If we can get the art there, art has that ability to get past the confirmation biases. Art is that thing that changes people.”

For more information, see QAF.

Two-spirit Squamish Nation councillor Orene Askew aims to build better world for young people of all sexual orientations

by Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight on July 22nd, 2021

Even though the term two-spirit originated with Indigenous people on the Prairies, it had immediate appeal to Orene Askew, a member of the Squamish Nation council.

Askew’s mother is Indigenous and her father is African American, hailing from Gary, Indiana, where his parents lived down the street from the famous Jackson family.

“When people ask me about two-spirited, my definition of it makes sense to me,” Askew told the Straight by phone. “I have a masculine and a feminine spirit inside of me.”

Askew, also known as DJ O Show, is a pillar of Vancouver’s LGBT+ community, serving on the boards of the Queer Arts FestivalOut on Screen, and Vancouver Pride Society. A passionate motivational speaker and lively DJ, she has won a B.C. Indigenous Business Award, a Stand Out Award from the Vancouver Pride Society, and a 2021 Alumni of Excellence award from Capilano University. But what really energizes her is helping young people.

“I’m a part of the first generation that didn’t go to residential school,” Askew said. “I can see the difference in the way the youth of today think.”

According to her, they’re not as jaded by trauma as their Indigenous elders, who were forced to attend the church-run residential schools.

“They’re so optimistic and they’re incredible,” she continued. “And I want to try to be a good leader for them because I want them to take over and I want them to take care of me when I’m an elder.”

More recently, Askew has been learning about the term Indigiqueer from young people in her community, particularly during the Kindred Spirits digital artist residency in May and June. Askew was one of the faculty members offering weekly presentations to two-spirit and Indigiqueer artists, who could sign up for free. An online exhibition at the Queer Arts Festival is described as the “digital culmination” of Kindred Spirits, focusing on how identities and futures can be described through self-portraiture that extends beyond colonial framing.

In one Zoom presentation to the young people, Askew played her 30-minute audio documentary, Our Dark Secret, which is about residential-school survivors in her community. She did this just after the leadership of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc revealed that unmarked and undocumented graves of 215 children had been located on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“I felt it was like the perfect timing to play it for the youth and the other mentors,” Askew recalled. “And people talked about their feelings. It was really healing that day.”

Askew’s mother was a huge fan of Motown songs, which influences the music she makes today. Recently, Askew recorded her first hip-hop track with Vancouver producer Jane Aurora.

“I think it’s really good and I can’t wait to release it,” she said. “We’ve applied for a grant to film a music video, so we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks if we’ve got it.”

As an elected councillor with her First Nation, Askew was on a committee that entered the first float by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh in the Vancouver Pride Parade. She described it as “awesome” to see two-spirited Indigenous people dancing so freely on the float.

In addition, the Squamish Nation has created a rainbow sidewalk at the foot of Capilano Road, not far from the Chief Joe Mathias Centre, which is a major community gathering spot.

Things are going so well for Askew that she’s been featured in a documentary by Human Biography, which has featured celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon in the past. According to Askew, the film about her will drop next month.

But it wasn’t always such a joyous existence. She was raised in a B.C. housing project as a child before she and her mother moved to Eslhá7an (a.k.a. the Mission reserve), west of Lonsdale Quay.

On occasion, she said, she would be called the n-word, which was very confusing. She would think: “Why are they calling me that? That’s my family.”

As she grew older, she realized that people who insulted her were probably taught that word. And she tried not to take it so personally.

In fact, Askew admitted that on some days, she actually forgets that she’s Black because she’s been so immersed in Indigenous culture for her entire life.

“I say it all the time,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like a stork kind of just dropped me off: ‘Here you go; kind of deal with it.’

“That’s the thing: if you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t think I was First Nations at all.”

Vancouver dance artist Alvin Tolentino and Onibana Taiko to celebrate rebel spirits in Queer Arts Festival

Carlito Pablo, Georgia Straight on July 27th, 2021

This year’s Queer Arts Festival marks a homecoming for dancer and choreographer Alvin Tolentino.

The founder and artistic director of the Co.ERASGA dance company said that he was one of the original performers in the Vancouver festival when it started as Pride in Art in 1998.

“It’s kind of a full circle to come back to it and to be part of it again,” Tolentino told the Straight in a phone interview.

The 2021 Queer Arts Festival runs until August 13 and reunites Tolentino with E. Kage of Onibana Taiko.

Onibana Taiko is a three-member ensemble that blends traditional Japanese drumming with other art forms and what festival organizers describe as “feminist queer punk aesthetics”.

The band formed in 2016, bringing together Kage, Noriko Kobayashi, and Leslie Komori.

In connection with Kage, Tolentino related that he created a work called OrienTik/Portrait in 2005. In it, he and dancer Andrea Nann performed to the music of Kage on the taiko (Japanese drum) and classical pianist Alison Nishihara.

“They played experimental, traditional, and contemporary music, and so I worked with them at that time to create a full-length piece,” he said.

When Onibana Taiko was creating a concept for the 2021 Queer Arts Festival, Tolentino’s name came up.

“This is a reunion, in a way,” he said about Kage.

Tolentino and Onibana Taiko will present a dance-and-music performance called Ceremony for Rebel Spirits on August 7. The show starts at 8 p.m. near the Chinese pavilion of Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery (5455 Fraser Street).

Tolentino explained that Ceremony for Rebel Spirits will represent the obon, a traditional summer festival in Japan honouring the dead.

“The narrative is about this reawakening of the spirits and being with the spirits,” he said about the collaborative work.

The obon is held in Japan during August, and it is believed that the spirits return to visit their loved ones at this time. It is an occasion for family reunions.

Customarily, people visit ancestral graves and bring flowers and pray for the dead. Tolentino noted that obon is similar to a cherished tradition in the Philippines called All Saints’ Day, which is marked on November 1.

As with Japan’s obon, the joyful event is a time for families to get together and share memories.

This Philippine occasion of remembering the dead is also called undas, said to have come from the Spanish word honra (“honour”).

“It has that kind of similar feeling, and the dance which I’m going to evoke is about meeting the spirits, and the music awakens those spirits as part of the festivity,” Tolentino said.

Onibana Taiko’s logo features an image of the higanbana, or red spider lily, which grows on Japanese grave sites.

Tolentino said Ceremony for Rebel Spirits seeks to commemorate people who fought for noteworthy causes and against all forms of discrimination.

Communing with spirits also serves as a reminder of unfinished struggles and the need to persevere.

“Queer people still get bashed in other parts of the world, and being gay is still not being accepted in some other parts of society,” Tolentino noted.

He pointed out that queer artists have a particular knack to “provoke” serious examination of issues in society.

“And so as queer artists, we cannot stop. We have to continue to fight for freedom and acceptance,” he said.

This is why Tolentino feels happy returning to the Queer Arts Festival. “Our story is still the same and still continuing to be rebellious,” he said.

As gay man and artist of colour, Tolentino is the quintessential rebel.

“I have always followed my creative instinct. I do not follow the crowd to create my work. I have stayed true to my calling,” Tolentino said.

He added that he’s proud to be a part of the festival’s legacy.

“I was there to signify the relation of queer arts and dance in a generation wherein art for queer was just being talked about or just beginning to bloom in Vancouver,” Tolentino said.

For Tolentino, “being a rebel is doing, continuing, and redefining the idea and meaning of being an artist for 30 years, and now, to dance for the dead in the spirit of obon”. 

Ceremony for Rebel Spirits brings dance and music to Mountainview Cemetery

The site-specific performance by Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolentino is part of Queer Arts Festival 2021

Sponsored Post by Pride in Art Society · stir · 22 Jul 2021

Ceremony for Rebel Spirits is more than a dance and music performance. It’s an experience where Japanese folk tradition meets punk in Vancouver’s only cemetery, an opportunity for audience members to commune with the ancestors via Obon dance, song, sensu (fan) cheerleading, fue, shamisen, incense, and kick-ass taiko.

The event is a collaboration by Onibana Taiko 鬼束太鼓 and Alvin Erasga Tolentino Dance and part of Queer Arts Festival 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green. It takes place August 7 at 8 pm PDT at Mountain View Cemetery.

Onibana Taiko consists of three Nikkei veterans of Vancouver’s taiko community, whose performances draw from Japanese traditional arts, festival drumming, and folk music and dance, all with a touch of feminist queer punk aesthetics.

As a group, Onibana draws its name from a type of flower that grows in the grave sites of Japan. Through taiko, the group seeks to transform shadowy elements into beauty, bridging the divide so as to commune with ancestors.

The group’s members include E. Kage, a taiko artist and digital audio artist who embraced the art of taiko as a way to express their empowerment as a mixed-race queer youth; Noriko Kobayashi, a musician and author of The Development of Canadian Kumi-Daiko and Asian Women Kick Ass Through Japanese Drumming; and artist Leslie Komori.

Alvin Erasga Tolentino is a Filipino Canadian choreographer and dance artist and the founding artistic director of Vancouver’s Co.ERASGA. His dance creations are driven from the need to intricately illustrate the human experience of light and dark and the infinitely complex relationship between nature and humanity. His choreography challenges the exploration of hybridity to reveal the private and public territory, identity, gender and the issues within the traditional and contemporary cross-cultural dialogue.

Tickets ($25) for Ceremony for Rebel Spirits can be purchased here.

QAF 2021 Dispersed: it’s not easy being green takes place from July 24 to August 3. A festival pass, $99, guarantees attendance at all events and saves over one third on individual event prices.

More information is at Queer Arts Festival.

How to Celebrate Pride in 2021

Amber Turnau · Hello BC

Although we can share our pride year-round, Pride Month in June brings us all together to celebrate, advocate for, and support the LGBTQAI2S+ community. Though festivals and celebrations in British Columbia are adapting for the second year in a row, there are still plenty of virtual and in-person events planned across the province to build connections, be seen, and wave the flag of support and love. Communities large and small plan to celebrate Pride in meaningful and innovative ways throughout the year.


Rally for Pride: June 26, 2021

Take your Pride on the open road with a socially distanced car rally from Halfmoon Bay to Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. Dress up, decorate your car, and create a fabulous “To Wong Foo” movie moment. Those not participating in the car rally can line up along the parade route to cheer from the sidelines (at a safe distance, of course).


Virtual Victoria Pride Week Festival: June 28-July 4, 2021

This year’s theme is about finding power through community connection. The Victoria Pride Society is hosting a series of virtual events that provide a safe space for the LGBTQAI2S+ community to celebrate resilience and togetherness. Programming includes a virtual dog walk, a special meet-up for youth, and a literary event. On July 4, the community of Victoria is encouraged to “Pride Up” their homes, businesses, and neighbourhoods in celebration.

VPS/ECAH Queer Art Show: July 14-30, 2021

The Victoria Pride Society is also teaming up with the Esquimalt Community Arts Hub to showcase “For the Love of Us ALL,” a queer art exhibit that explores community, love, Pride and diversity.


Prince George Pride: July 5-9, 2021

Prince George is joining in the Pride fun this July. Their roster of events includes a virtual drag show and a car rally with stations and photo opportunities along the way. The iconic town mascot, Mr. PG, will also be holding the pride flag all week long. Stay updated on the Prince George Pride Facebook page.


Queer Culture Summer Series: June 25-July 30, 2021

Parnell Productions is teaming up with 40 Knots Winery to host a series of drive-in movie nights. Watch your favourite classics like Mamma Mia!  and Grease under the starry summer skies. Tickets are available online and all proceeds go to the Langley Parnell Bursary, which helps fund a University of Victoria education for individuals in the local LGBTQAI2S+ community.


Vancouver Pride Festival: July 19-August 3, 2021

This year’s Vancouver Pride Festival programming is full of amazing virtual and in-person events. Dance the night away when you tune into the Pride Summer Series online concerts, attend the pride history and human rights panels, watch drag story time, or participate in one of the pop-up style COVID-friendly Pride Lounges dotted around town. The Vancouver Mural Fest is also curating an Art Walk featuring queer public art. The marquee event is the Decentralized Pride Parade on August 1. Get your bubble together, dress up in Pride flare and share on social media using #VanPride for a chance to win prizes and be part of the live broadcast. 

Vancouver Queer Arts Festival: Jul 24-Aug 13, 2021

The Vancouver Queer Arts Festival amplifies unique perspectives and lived experiences from the LGBTQAI2S+ community through art, film, and literature. The event will be in hybrid format, with events taking place virtually and in-person throughout Metro Vancouver. The schedule includes a diverse line-up of outdoor screenings,  exhibits, intimate gatherings, and workshops.


Virtual Kamloops Pride Week: August 26-29, 2021 

The Kamloops Pride team has pulled together a host of entertaining online events for the 2021 season, including stand-up comedy, drag shows, movie nights, and B-I-N-G-O. The week culminates with a virtual Pride parade shared on August 29. Parade participants can submit a video of their own personal display of Pride by August 15 for a chance to be featured in the final edit.


Touchstones Pride History Exhibit: Aug 14-October 30, 2021

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first ever Pride parade in Nelson. Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History plans to run a Pride History exhibition to celebrate the diverse LGBTQAI2S+ community and mark this momentous milestone.

Kootenay Pride Week: August 30-September 6, 2021

Kootenay Pride is one of the town’s most anticipated weeks of the year. While the event program has not yet been finalized, you can expect online and in-person events (if health restrictions allow). Follow Kootenay Pride on Facebook and Instagram for details.


Kelowna Pride and Out in the Valley: September 2021 (dates TBD)

Kelowna Pride, the largest Pride festival in BC’s Interior, returns with virtual and in-person celebrations for the 2021 season. The festival date and program details will be announced this summer, but mark your calendars now.

Visit wineries, distilleries, breweries and cideries for a series of mini music fests, on the weekends after Labour Day. You can also participate in a bike, vehicle, or water parade (if mother nature cooperates). The Pride Market is returning to the House of Rose Winery, with a focus on LGBTQAI2S+ owned businesses, merchants and allies.

The highly anticipated signature event, Kelowna’s Next Drag Superstar, is celebrating a 10-year anniversary and will feature an All Stars edition with previous winners.


Elk Valley Pride Festival: September 23-26, 2021

The fifth annual Elk Valley Pride Festival is set to hit Fernie this September, featuring in-person and online events for the whole family. The event program is packed with fun activities, including drag story time, craft night, a community bike ride, cooking classes, and live performances. Follow the Fernie Pride Society on Instagram for the most up-to-date info on Pride 2021.


Whistler Pride and Ski Festival: January 23-30, 2022

For the snow-minded, it’s never too early to start thinking about winter. The annual Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is slated for January 2022. Pending provincial health guidelines, the festival—which is set to celebrate its 29th year in 2022—will feature skiing and snowboarding events, arts and culture experiences, and gatherings.

Queer Arts Festival – Dispersed

Rebecca Bollwitt · Miss 604 · Jun 8 2021 9:09am PDT

Queer Arts Festival – Dispersed is a three-week eco-apocalyptic exploration of queer experience and artistic expression in the face of an ongoing pandemic and marginalization. Vancouver’s premiere artist-run, multidisciplinary roister of art and culture, Queer Arts Festival (“QAF”) is back for its 13th year this summer, in a hybrid format with both online and offline events and performances.

Queer Arts Festival – Dispersed

  • Where: Various venues & online
  • When: July 24 to August 13, 2021
  • Tickets: Limited quantity of early bird passes are available online for $69 (that’s a 50%+ discount) only until July 1st.

For the first time, QAF’s suite of visual art, performance, music, literary and  workshop events will be presented in a dispersed format across the Lower Mainland—from the depths of the Sun Wah Centre and rooftop overlooking historic Chinatown, to Mountain View Cemetery, False Creek and QAF’s usual stomping grounds, the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre. Following the success of last year’s online festival, QAF will also have a streaming component.

Event highlights include: Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour and SD Holman’s visual art curation; a fabulously punk Japanese folk music and dance performance from Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolentino; and a reimagining of Annea Lockwood’s 20th-century classic, Piano Burning, where fire becomes a vehicle for reclamation and decolonization (yes, they are burning a piano).

Event Lineup

Saturday July 24, 7:00pm to 10:00pm
Festival Opening | SUM & Sun Wah 268 Keefer
QAF’s opening: animating the Sun Wah Building from the basement, to the SUM gallery to the rooftop overlooking Chinatown and beyond, they’re launching the Dispersed QAF in champagne style with DJ O Show.

it’s not easy being green: Curated Visual Art Exhibition and Tour
Saturday July 24 to Friday August 13
Visual Art | SUM  & Sun Wah 268 Keefer Lower Ground
Navigating the heart breaking and familiar landscape of apocalyptic post-colonial collapse, artists selected by Co-Curators Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour and SD Holman explore how Queer Art unfurls and blooms in continued and stubbornly vibrant survival. 

Tuesday July 27, 5:00pm
Visual Art Tour | SUM & Sun Wah 268 Keefer
Come together for our Visual Art Tour with the curators Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour and SD Holman, guest artists, and a gallery of intimate friends old and new.

Language as a Virus: Queer isolation stories
Saturday July 24 to Friday August 13
Sonic Installation | around False Creek & Online
An interactive audio/radio/networked soundwork from Bobbi Kozinuk that invites the user to explore themes around the COVID pandemic and its effect on queer and diverse communities. 

Language as a Virus: The Tour
Monday July 26, 5:00pm  
Audio Art Tour | Creek Side CC (TBC) False Creek
Join artist Bobbi Kozinuk in an exploration of her work, Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories.

Studio (ob)Sessions
Monday July 26 – throughout festival
Digital Discourse | Online | tbd
In the connective void that has been this pandemic pause, QAF takes you on a few house calls. Visit with several festival artists in their creation spaces, a digital dialogue to allow a connection from the artist in their corner of space to you and where you call your place. 

Screen Greenery
Saturday July 31, 9:00pm
Media Art Screening | SUM & Sun Wah 268 Keefer Rooftop
BYOB (bring your own blanket and that other B) Curated by Fergie and Ben!  Rooftop screening of edutainment for the pandemic- very queer and rather green short films.

Monday August 2, 8:00pm
Literary Readings | SUM & Sun Wah 268 Keefer Rooftop
Curated by Josie Boyce, slip into a little green something and enjoy readings by Vancouverite writers. Bring your own blanket or chair.

Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolenti
Saturday August 7, 8:00pm
Dance and Musical Performance | Mountain View Cemetery
When Japanese folk tradition meets punk, audience members are invited to commune with the ancestors via obon dance, song, sensu (fan) cheerleading, fue, shamisen and kick-ass taiko.

Piano Burning
Sunday August 8, 8:00pm
Performance Art| Mountain View Cemetery
QAF and Full Circle First Nations Performance present new commissions by Russell Wallace and Evan Ducharme reimagining Annea Lockwood’s classic work, performed by Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa.

Glitter is Forever
Friday August 13, 7:00pm to 10:00pm
Closing | SUM & Sun Wah 268 Keefer Rooftop
Join the festival closing and take your last chance to see all the art @ QAF 2021 at the Sun Wah Building from the basement, to the SUM gallery to the rooftop.

Kindred Spirits
Saturday July 24 – Friday August 13
Community Visual Art | Online
The digital culmination of the Kindred Spirits digital artist residency run by and for 2Spirit and Indigiqueer artists. Guided by Faculty members Dayna Danger, DJ O Show, Raven Davis and Art Auntie Shane Sable, this digital exhibition focuses on re-storying 2Spirit identities and futures through community connection and self-portraiture beyond colonial constructs.

Pride in Art Community Show
Saturday July 24 – Friday August 13
Visual Art | SUM & Sun Wah 268 Keefer
The community show honours Pride in Art founder, activist, and Two-Spirit artist Robbie Hong’s legacy with an open community exhibition. This year, QAF is throwing what was once refused up on their walls. Join community artists in a Salon des Refusés (or perhaps Recyclés) celebrating works that were previously censored or rejected.

Pillows for the Pandemic
Wednesday July 28, 7:30pm
Workshop | SUM gallery or Online
Falak Vasa leads us in a pillow-making workshop, based off of their own series of pillows created during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic offering small comforts that are controllable.

Queerer than Queer: Lessons from Nonduality for Deep Planetary Healing
Thursday August 5, 7:00pm
Workshop | SUM gallery or Online
Is the universe queerer than we can suppose? From the foot of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, Tejal Shah will guide us through this interactive workshop. Explore the possible impact that an embodied understanding of nonduality can have on our affective world and relationships to ‘others’.

Gathering of Wishes and 1000 Paper Butterflies
Wednesday August 4, 6:00pm
Workshop | SUM gallery or Online
Naoko Fukumaru and Eva Wong in Phase 1 of Mass Reincarnation of Wish Fragments 願片大量転生 (Ganhen Tairyou Tensei), where participants create origami and utilize the ink bleeding process to create a butterfly with their own unique patterns and colours.

Follow the QAF on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more info.

Miss604 is a proud media sponsor of the Queer Arts Festival

Metro Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival hypes a hybrid edition

Annual celebration’s 13th edition returns with some live and outside shows across the Lower Mainland to complement its online offerings

Dana Gee · Vancouver Sun · 20 Jul 2021

Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of live events, people scrambled to find a new way to get their shows and festivals in front of an audience.

The prevailing plan for many turned out to be online presentations. The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) was one of the first festivals to move forward with a full online program last summer.

One year later, and the QAF is celebrating its 13th anniversary with a combination live and online approach to the July 24 to Aug. 13 festival. This year’s theme is Dispersed: it’s not easy being green.

“Last year, it was quite a wild ride but we doubled our attendance. We hit every single continent except for Antarctica, 50 countries,” said festival founding artistic director SD Holman, adding that 20,000 plus people signed up for the online events. “So 50 countries and even countries that had to get around their own censorship laws. That was pretty special and that leads me to this year, which we are doing a hybrid festival.”

That hybrid model includes live shows, live streaming, an online art gallery, workshops and outdoor exhibits and events.

Outside events include a couple of shows at the Mountain View Cemetery and a sonic installation in and around the False Creek area.

The cemetery will play host to the Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolentino show on Aug. 7 at 8 p.m.

Described as a combination Japanese folk meets punk rock, the show is certainly an attention grabber.

“The structure of it is something called Obon. Obon is sort like a Japanese Day of the Dead,” said Onibana Taiko drummer Leslie Komori.

The annual Obon festival is a Buddhist ceremony that connects the living with the dead through dance. Komori sees this performance as not only that but also as a way for people to ease into the return of live entertainment and maybe ease into living with all the grief that has grown immensely over the past 15 months.

“Given this year of COVID and the experience of a lot of loss and addition to the discovery of all the unmarked graves in different Indigenous residential schools, it’s hard to just jump back into life,” said Komori, who will be joined by bandmates E. Kage and Noriko Kobayashi. “I think it is like a ceremony to get us back to some kind of normal, to recognize what we have lost this past year and in years before.”

The Taiko and dance event will have performers moving from location to location in the cemetery. It will end with a queercore punk song.

“It’s kind of a processional, I guess, with a punk rock ending,” said Komori.

Also kind of punk rock is the other cemetery show, Piano Burning. Piano Burning is a reimagining of Annea Lockwood’s original 1968 performance piece. The Aug. 8, 8 p.m. event is a commissioned piece by Lil’wat composer Russell Wallace that includes a fireproof-red ball gown created by Métis designer Evan Ducharme. Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa will perform on the burning piano.

“We are very afraid of death,” said Holman, who co-curated Piano Burning with Margo Kane of the Talking Stick Festival. “Cemeteries — they are places of beauty. I love cemeteries. Every place I travel I go to cemeteries. The idea that it is being activated as an art space really appealed to me.

“Oh and the neighbours are quiet,” added Holman.

In other outdoor events, this time over in False Creek, electronic media artist Bobbi Kozinuk has created two new shows.

Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories (Jul 24-Aug. 13) is a sonic installation that allows punters to move from location to location and connect with stories. Language as a Virus: The Tour (July 26, 8 p.m.) offers up an audio art tour.

“They will be able to hear the stories change on the FM (radios will be supplied) as they go around,” said Vancouver’s Kozinuk. “We are trying to get people to experience the work live.”

Each station/community centre has a web page that highlights the people and their stories associated to the location.

In the past she has used neighbourhood parks with transmitters as areas to experience these soundscapes/soundtracks.

These days, though, not that many people roam around with FM radios, so QR codes are now in play.

A long-time supporter of the festival, Kozinuk is also a board member.

“I find as queer artist, a trans artist it is very important to get stuff out there in people’s view,” said Kozinuk, when asked what QAF meant to her. “I came out as trans 20 years ago and I didn’t really have any examples from anyone on how to do it. Whereas younger people now go to the Queer Arts Festival and they realize there are people out there like them, people who have experiences that they can relate with.”

The connection is further solidified by the simple fact there is some very interesting art at play in this festival, art that speaks to people across the board.

“These are artists that are chosen because they are good artists. Not just because they are queer. So to have that as young queer people and have that for young artists to see that is invaluable,” said Kozinuk.

For Komori, a Japanese lesbian, the festival ticks not just artistic boxes but it ticks and kicks open doors to the wider queer world.

“I love the diversity. Sometimes you know queer things can tend to be white cis male,” said Komori. “The Queer Arts Festival has really attempted to have a real diversity of just really different types of folks. There are so many intersections that I really appreciate that.”

Dates, times and descriptions of all QAF events can be found at