One fine, sunny afternoon during this years’ Queer Arts Festival week, I rode my bike down to the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre and perused some exceptionally delightful, mind-bending, and poignant public artwork. For the past week and a bit (from Tuesday, June 21 to Thursday, June 30), the Roundhouse’s great hall has been home to the Pride in Art Visual Art Show, featuring works by twenty-five local artists, each with a wide variety of skills and talent.
The show also included works by members of Photovoice, “a trans*, Two-Spirit, and Gender Nonconforming community safety and well-being project.” The photographs, sculptures, paintings and prints were scattered amongst the community centre’s bustling activity and atmosphere, mingling with the hall’s day-to-day inhabitants and accompanied by the sounds of lively lobby action. It was a viewing experience which I had never had before, one that was integrated into public life and conversation. I loved it!
The art itself was wondrous and intriguing in spades, and I never tired of wandering around the lobby in search of the next piece. The various explorations of queer life and inspiration, gender identity, and political expression (to name only a few themes) were placed like Easter eggs around the public space. As I hopped from one artwork to the next, I was struck by how much I enjoyed the spontaneity of it all. I never knew what to expect with each new piece I encountered, which I felt suited the show’s aim very well. By using a busy, common area as gallery space, the Pride in Art show was kept fresh and exciting, never stuffy or inaccessible. Each art piece felt like it belonged not only with the group, but also amongst the community centre goings-on. Many of the artworks touched on themes of queer identity within private and public spaces, the “slippery and pervasive” nature of gender (quote from Rites of Passage by Wade Janzen), and the many sources of historical inspiration for people who identify as queer/gender-nonconforming/trans*/Two-Spirit. Placing these often personal themes into public space transformed the building’s lobby into a meeting place, or a conversation between the artworks and the everyday patterns which they challenge.
The Pride in Art Visual Art Show also featured Katherine Atkins, Kate Braun, Jackson Photographix, Jeff Austin Gibson, Kelly Haydon, Donal Hebner, Trish Holowcznek, Dzee Louise, Noemi Molitor, Nisha Platzer, Rosamond Norbury, Jen Sung, Sabrina Symington, and SD Holman.
The Photovoice artists involved were Daniel, Bon Fabian, Abby Hipolito, Elizabeth ‘Raven’ James, Wade Janzen, Sandy Lambert, Chase Willier Nirkwuscin, Cherese Reemaul, Velvet Steele, Ann Travers, and Stefan de Villiers.