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Queer/Art/Mentorship Program Launches in NYC


Filmmaker Ira Sachs and Lily Binns (co-executive director of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre) have recently launched Queer/Art/Mentorship (Q/A/M), a program that supports emerging queer working artists in New York City.

The AIDS epidemic cut a swath of death through an entire generation of artists.  Additionally, a legacy of internalized homophobia, trans-phobia and ageism has historically limited intergenerational interactions within the broader queer community.

With no money, and a little help from their friends, Q/A/M is fighting that sense of isolation.  Sachs and Binns hope to create a replicable structure for interaction among artists and among queer folk. Q/A/M brings together artists who are early in their careers, working across five disciplines, with  established artists for year-long creative and professional support. The fellows will develop and present their projects in New York City at the end of the year.

As Sachs and Binns began to build Q/A/M, they invited many artists that they had already worked with to be mentors.  

The inaugural group of mentors for the 2011-2012 program are performers Justin Vivian Bond, John Kelly, and Everett Quinton; visual artists Angela Dufresne, Nicole Eisenman, Louise Fishman, and Deborah Kass; filmmakers Barbara Hammer, Jennie Livingston, and Matt Wolf; Curator Jonathan David Katz; and writers Hilton Als, Sarah Schulman, Pamela Sneed, and Stacy Szymaszek.

Once the mentors were selected, Sachs and Binns sent letters to 75 arts professionals asking them to recommend 3 to 5 potential fellows that Q/A/M would invite to apply as fellows to the program. 215 emerging artists were recommended and 80 of them were invited to submit an application in which they were asked to describe a formative experience with queer culture, give an outline of the project they were currently working on, and to describe what the they hoped to get out of the program. A juried panel evaluated the applications and projects and selected 15 fellows to work with the mentors.

2011-2012 Fellow, Hima B, will be working with Matt Wolf  on her film, License to Pimp, which chronicles how three strippers negotiate the sex industry. Jess Barbagallo will be working with Stacy Szymaszek on a poetic essay in response to focused reading and research on loss and unexpected absence. Pilar Gallego will be working with Nicole Eisenman to further develop their genderqueer "Mouth-Head" caricature beyond the drawn image and into film, photography, performance, and installation. Pati Hertling will be working with Hilton Als on an NYC-based salon focused on content and information exchange, loosely based on her previous Berlin-based series Evas Arche und der Feminist.

Darren Jones will be working with Jonathan Katz on creating a New York City time capsule, researching and archiving the already lost and the fast disappearing elements of New York's physical and social skin. SaeEd Jones will be working with Sarah Schulman on a memoir about his experiences as black queer southerner. Xavier Marrades will be working with Barbara Hammer on editing his documentary Trans Time, a psychoanalytically-inspired collage of images of New York City and Spain taken over the last 7 years that accumulate into a picture of artistic and queer self growth. Tommy Pico will be working with Pamela Sneed on his chapbook, It's All Happening, Man, to be released in three different intervals over the course of the mentorship, focusing on the poet's experiences of the intersection between his distinct gay and Native American identities.

Harrison Rivers will be working with John Kelly on a new theater piece based on Marcel Duchamp's marriage and a Rolling Stone article called Bugchasers: The Men Who Long to Be HIV+. Guadalupe Rosales will be working with Louise Fishman on a series of abstract geometric drawings using graphite, charcoal, and spray paint that may evolve into large-scale installations and/or wallpaper. Jacolby Satterwhite will be working with Angela Dufresne on a surrealist, performative documentary using 3D animation, titled Drawing Desire, about creatively collaborating with his mother through her struggle with schizophrenia. Justin Sayre will be working with Everettt Quinton on a play, using a mix of theatrical traditions as well as a musical component, on the last of the Fairy Bars.

Q/A/M co-founder Lily Binns, along with two mentors, Justin Vivian Bond and Jennie Livingston and their respective fellows, Yve Laris Cohen and Edward McDonald, spoke with about why they are involved with the project.

"What [Ira Sachs] did first was to start a queer film series at the IFC center where he invited artists of any background to choose a film to present that influenced their own work." said Lily Binns when we spoke by phone.

"That film series has become quite a success.  It regularly sells out, and has quite a following...The audience is diverse.  It brings together people of different ages, backgrounds and genders . It is not only a gay male audience.  [Ira] saw the importance of having different generations and different gendered people in the queer community in one space.  He thought it was incredibly powerful....I went to a couple of the events and was moved by what I saw as a community experience.  The content that was presented was great and I felt that the events were a new space [in the queer community]; different than anything I had ever experienced and it was very exciting.  I heard that Ira was starting a mentorship program and looking for a collaborator.  I absolutely swooped in and told Ira that this program was right up my alley. I care deeply about mentorship and community gathering. I thought that [being a part of the program] would be an important part of my own life...The success of the program will be for the mentors to benefit our fellows' productivity and to give them the sense of worth, and value and connectedness to a wider community.  At the very least, every fellow should feel that there are people cares about what they are doing and will do what they can to help them move their work forward", Binns concluded.

Queer/Art/Mentorship Program Launches in NYCJustin Vivian Bond has released a new CD Dendrophile and a new novella-length memoir Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels.

"When I was coming of age in the early to mid 1980's many of the people who may have been [our generation's] mentors were struggling with HIV/AIDS and its devastation...we felt that we had missed out on having queer mentors, because [so many] had died. It was difficult for me when I was in college, even as a theater major, because many of the professors were closeted homosexual men and their shame and furtiveness made me embarrassed and uncomfortable.", V said during our phone interview.
"[Recently], I found myself inspired by a new generation of performers...who were dealing with queer, transgender and gender-queer identities.  I was getting so much from these young people, I felt that perhaps I should try to mentor, even though I didn't really know how to mentor, not having mentors, myself.", V continued.

Q/A/M fellow Yve Laris Cohen submitted a proposal  to work on a piece that will be investigation of queer intergenerational relationships through dance and he will be working with Justin Vivian Bond.

"I was surprised and grateful to be nominated [to Q/A/M]...I feel like I straddle two different [art] worlds. I grew up training in ballet and started working in the art department in college.  I wasn't sure that I could wed the two.  It is tricky and I am learning a lot. There is something about be being in mutual queer and trans communities...that makes [my mentorship with V] easier.  I am grateful to have a new friend. The conversations that we have are really meaningful to me.", Yve said during our interview.

Queer/Art/Mentorship Program Launches in NYC
Filmmaker Jennie Livingston conceived and directed one of the most important documentaries of the post-Stonewall era, Paris Is Burning.  Her latest documentary, Earth Camp One is currently in production.  You can support Livingston's film by donating to her Kickstarter campaign here.

"Ira is a friend.  I had presented at his queer art film series....when he approached me and told me he was starting this project mentoring emerging artists I was happy to join.  I feel like it is hard to find mentors.  I didn't go to film school but found mentors where I could. I wrote a letter to director Werner Herzog who took me to lunch when he came to New York and urged me to just go make a movie.  My uncle was the wonderful filmmaker, Alan J. Pakula.  When I confessed to him that I wanted to make film, nice man that he was, he tried to warn me away. [As a mentor] it is not so much the giving of information as much as it is saying 'I know you are going to find your way' and 'I'm here to listen.'", Livingston said when we spoke.

"As a woman filmmaker; we make 5% of all films that are made.  As a queer filmmaker it is hard to tell our stories.  It is hard to get the money to tell our stories. We need all of the community and props we can get. I wanted to be a part of that. Edward, the filmmaker I am working with, is making his first documentary.  As a documentarian, one of the questions that always comes up is 'What is the relationship between the subject and the filmmaker?' [As a mentor] I can provide [Edward] with a list of documentaries that he should see, that I think are essential.  They may not be films that look anything like the movie he is going to make, but they may help him understand how other filmmakers have negotiated this territory.", Livingston added.

As noted above, Edward McDonald will be working with Jennie Livingston on directing his first feature documentary, More Than a Village, about two gay men embarking on the process of becoming fathers via surrogacy. McDonald is a West Point graduate and is currently a thesis student at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

"Mostly, I work on narrative film but the project I applied to this program with is a documentary, my first documentary. Growing up as a black gay male and trying to figure all of that out, I knew the film Paris is Burning.  When I found out that Jennie was going to be my mentor I was super excited to have someone who has done such great work to guide me with my first documentary.", McDonald said during our interview.
In a recent Huffington post piece, Lily Binns tackles the question: What is queer art?  She writes: "For those who claim it, 'queer' is an inclusive identity with a critical perspective of the worlds in which we live, where a mainstream notion of normalcy of one kind or another spits many people out. In my neighbors and in their first-rate work, I see a wild celebration and provocation of each of our singular sexualities, genders, races, classes, abilities and regional origins, and a dissolution of the categorical segregation that previously ghettoized gays, lesbians and their art".


For more information about Queer/Art / Mentorship, visit

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