Queer Arts Festival Struggles to Survive

After a whirlwind public awareness and letter writing campaign, the Pride in Arts Society was able to secure the reinstatement of 75% of their Canadian Heritage Government Charity grant, which had been cut from the budget only three weeks previously.

Canadian Heritage has supported QAF since 2010, and in 2012 the grants the PiA were given made up half of their funding. When it was cut abruptly from the annual budget, says the PiA, “representatives were unable to give specific reasons for the sudden change of heart”.

Following this abrupt ending of their three year partnership only three months before their planned 2013 opening, the PiA sprung into action, going as far as to request a meeting with the Honorable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, in hopes of discussing the funding cuts.

Since his inauguration in 2008, Moore has developed a reputation as defender of the arts, telling the Globe and Mail on Thursday, “No cuts to the Canada Council for the Arts, no cuts to Arts Presentation Canada [now the Canada Arts Presentation Fund] festival funding – all those things that are critical to quality of life in communities across the country…All of it has been protected in the budget.”

Though the PiA was reportedly denied the opportunity to meet with the minister, they continued to campaign with a concentrated attempt to finger the ministry’s role in the funding cuts. The PiA assembled a campaign for awareness, in the hopes of marshaling public pressure. Said Communications manager Flora Ware:

“We are putting out a call for support to our patrons, the queer and artistic communities, and the general public. The festival is rallying, and we have been very touched by the outpouring of support. We are determined to move forward with our 2013 festival.”

The Queer Arts Festival (QAF) is a three-week long, multidisciplinary art festival, which has taken place annually in Vancouver since it was first started in 2008. QAF’s goal is to create a safe space for current past and future lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) artists to express themselves without judgment. From the onset, it has grown enormously, receiving funding from all three levels of government and allowing the PiA to receive Charitable status. With over 10.6% of Canadian same-sex couples residing in Vancouver, the QAF is BC’s only arts festival dedicated to LGBT artists and communities. The PiA believes that:

“By celebrating and showcasing the achievements of historic and current LGBT artists, we increase pride and self-esteem within our communities, and respect and understanding in the broader society.”

The QAF features a curated visual arts exhibition, a community visual art show, performing arts events, and workshops for adults and youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBT youths are at increased risk for experiences with violence and suicidal thoughts and actions. Stating “A nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 7–12 found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers”. The QAF includes several specialized LGBT youth initiatives for this reason, directed towards giving LGBT teens positive role models as well as developing positive relationships with the arts and self expression.