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