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Film – Empowering Queer and Trans People of Colour

Philip Nadasdy,
Manager of Public Programs,
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

All right. Hi, everybody. My name’s Philip Nadasdy. I’m the manager of public programmes at the Seattle Art Museum. This is very obviously not me. This is performative work from a group called Purple Lemonade Collective in Seattle, who’s much better to look at for the next five minutes. We’ll be going through a range of different pictures from a programme called Legendary Children. Legendary Children is a programme partnership between the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Public Library. It is focussed on empowering and giving the reins over to queer and trans people of colour in the Pacific north-west, otherwise known as QTPOC. It’s been going on since 2015. We started in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the documentary film [unintelligible 00:00:47]. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

So we’re talking about the programme partnerships. Oftentimes, programme partnerships occur on an imbalanced scale. Really large organisations working with small organisations, all really good intention, but it can lead to different kind of structural problems with power and budget and a lot of different issues. But what happens when two large institutions come together and partner, especially two large institutions of comparable size like Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Public Library? What more can be achieved with those greater resources? Better yet, what greater impact can we achieve when we hand over the reins of programme [ownership] to communities that we’re seeking to serve. And to call on my colleagues here from both sides of the partnership, [unintelligible 00:01:32] from Seattle Art Museum; [Davida Ingram], [Jerry Mills] from Seattle Public Libraries; the best people working in Seattle right now.

So this is the very most important slide that’s part of my presentation, so take a long, hard look. These are our community curators, the heart and soul of Legendary Children. These are the people that are responsible for everything that you experience at a Legendary Children programme. They are members of the [unintelligible 00:01:58] community in Seattle, represent artists, health care workers, activists, a wide range and it’s a constantly evolving set.

I want to be perfectly honest and kind of go back to [Dr Johnson] about [putting it on the] carpet. I had a lot of reservations about presenting this programme slowly, solely for five minutes, and we have the full attention of having community curators on stage with me for a full session. For the interests of time, I want to make sure that their voices are heard and how they describe the programme. This is how they describe Legendary Children. “Legendary Children is many things. It’s a special evening of after hours arts programming that comes complete with style [unintelligible 00:02:33] communities in the main spotlight. Legendary Children is designed by our community members to be [unintelligible 00:02:38], transgressive, totally free, while also combining increased access to museums, art, libraries and information. Our audiences leave with a sense that queer and trans people of colour’s lives must matter in our broader communities. After all, our beauty and leadership is legendary.” Thank you to our community curators.

What are you going to experience at a Legendary Children event? We’re upwards of a thousand people attending these events and it started with about 300 people; now, it’s a full-fledged, large-scale programme. So everything that you see, we work with community curators to connect the programme in some way to special exhibitions that are happening at the museum. It’s ranged from [Kehinde Wiley] exhibitions to [Jacob Lawrence] exhibitions, but they really think deeply about how to connect; who is performing, who is on view for the audiences to those exhibitions. Seattle Public Library then brings a pop-up library with resources also connected to the programme where people can check out materials or sign up for the library membership to gain more resources. In the galleries and public spaces, you will experience performances and DJs, drag king and queen performances in public spaces, live music and dancing in the galleries, pop-up independent radio stations doing interviews in the galleries. It’s a transforming experience and a different museum experience. Participatory art making pop-up photo booths, and then as always a final public runway that invites people to walk, [unintelligible 00:04:03] and shine to finish off. It’s by far the most popular part of the programme.

So what is next for Legendary Children? We continue to search out and seek out exhibitions in our programming schedule that can help ground Legendary Children and create a more impactful programme and to bring more people through the museum and make connections to the art that they’re seeing. We continue to push the boundaries that are normal, the norms for performance within our galleries and our public spaces. Every planning session with our community curators is a back and forth; what can we do to transgress them, the normal museum experience. I can’t tell you how many [frowns] I’ve seen at the planning sessions. No, we cannot bring glitter into the galleries, but we can do a whole number of different things, and the most fun brainstorming I’ve had with the museum curators.

And finally, probably most recently, our community curators were nominated for an emerging arts leader award for the Mayor’s Arts Awards in Seattle. It’s a huge honour for them to be represented at those arts awards for all of the work that they’ve been doing for the last two years. People are taking notice of the community [unintelligible 00:05:10].

So to sum it all up, I say Legendary Children is a community-authored but institutionally-supported programme that is revolutionary for our institutions but legendary for our communities. Thank you.

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