With a crowd of colourful and queer attendees assembled, Vancouver's fifth annual Queer Arts Festival unveiled its visual art exhibit and gave a sample of what else is to come at the opening gala held at Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on July 31.
QAF president Joel Klein told the Straight said he was thrilled at the lineup of artists who are contributing this year.
"I'm so stoked that Paul Wong has put his piece in….We've got Noam Gagnon, whose a legend in dance who's doing a roughly biographical piece. We've got a piece from last year's Clean Sheets [an annual reading series of queer-themed plays] that we workshopped last year that's finally going into full production."
Klein also had another reason to look forward to this year's proceedings.
"On a personal level, I'm super excited to be taking part as an opera singer in Canada's first lesbian opera, which we've commissioned," he said. "That's an amazing experience for me."
Klein said he had done undergrad in opera at UBC and has sung for Vancouver Opera, Edmonton Opera, and City Opera.
A workshop performance of When the Sun Comes Out, written by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose, will be presented.
Other celebrated names in the arts at this year's festival include:
The visual arts component consists of two shows: the Pride in Art Community Art Show and the RaNDoM acTS oF QueeRNeSS curated visual art exhibition. As described on the QAF website, the theme reflects "those odd, spontaneous moments when our queerness bursts forth upon the world".
Health Initiative for Men executive director Wayne Robert also attended the opening gala. In discussing with the Straight why HIM decided to partner with this year's VQAF, he said he sees that "health and art are really intimately linked", particularly for gay men.
"On the way as I was walking here, I thought to myself, 'Everybody who's an artist is a little bit queer'," he said with a laugh. "Just being an artist in our society makes you a little bit outside the norm and so you just extend that on and on, and looking at how each of us have our own different place that we find and a lot of us find it through art, and I think that's a really important thing for people to be able to do. And we encourage guys to be able to look at those kinds of things, that they may have held back from, so a lot of gay men have been in the arts, but a lot of gay men have held back because they don't to out themselves or they don't want part of their personality to be known. So there's a lot of conflict back and forth, and we see good, healthy expression like what's going on at this festival to be really key to getting good health, good social and mental health."
The opening night evening, emceed by Barb Snelgrove, included performances by LOUD (taiko drummer Eileen Kage and electric guitarist Elaine Stef), a Tsleil-Waututh welcoming song and blessing by Sandra Laframboise, and live model sketching.
The festival runs until August 18.