With three youth curators along with three mentors, Printed Matters: Creating and Curating Queer is the final exhibition featuring new print-based work created by Edmonton-based queer youths. In its third consecutive year and always in conjunction with Exposure Festival, the queer youth curatorial project remains an important part of the festival, according to Ted Kerr, Producer of Exposure, "Because youth should have a voice within the festival. Along with creating partnerships with institutions like the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA), SNAP and The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (ISMSS), the action to foster art and culture is part of animating our rights."
With two printmaking workshops directed towards queer youth, both facilitated by Anthea Black, who was the artist in residence during Camp Fyrfly, an Edmonton-based queer youth camp unique in Western Canada, the decision to focus on print-based work was a combination of serendipitous decisions.
"The work speaks to a more DIY activist aesthetic," Black points out, who is also the Exhibitions Manager for the AGA and one of the project's mentors, along with Kerr and Scott Mair from ISMSS. "They're about getting ideas out there quickly, disseminating ideas through print, which has a long history in queer art history including Daryl Vocat and General Idea as precedent setting examples in Canada."
With the curators ranging from age 17 to 24, and without ever having met each other before this project, Juniper Quin, Stephen Shaw and Jolanda Thomas managed to put together two exhibitions for Printed Matters, one at the AGA and one for SNAP.
Thomas, the oldest member of the curatorial team, shares "The biggest thing for me is being involved in the queer community. How things like this impact the community." As someone who came out in her early twenties, she continues, "I never had access to this when I was a youth, and it would have changed my life. I didn't come out until I was 21. I feel in some ways I missed this boat. I was having the same thoughts they were having, but this is coming from people much younger—it definitely resonates with me."
With the youngest curatorial member, Shaw, still in high school, his curatorial statement offers further insight into the spectrum of what it means to be a queer youth. "We encourage the openness of the art, no matter how inappropriate it may be deemed. The way we self-identify as queer, and how this is part of our identity, helps us to lead our community into the future."
The third member, Quin, an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, says "It's been really eye opening to work with Stephen, who's in a Catholic highschool. I realize there are a lot more queer youth in the school system that are being underrepresented, if they are represented at all. By working on this project, I realized how important and necessary it is, especially with the advent of Bill 44."
*First published in Vue Weekly