After 14 months of planning, a successful Indiegogo campaign, and challenges as well as proud moments, the inaugural OUTsider Festival will finally kick off this week. The first of it’s kind, this unique festival will showcase film, theater, dance, music, writing, performance, and visual art, bringing queer audiences and artists together with one common goal – “to activate the full power and brilliance of LGBTQIA creation and community.”
Artistic Director Curran Nault and Executive Director, Annie Bush are now counting down the days until they can finally see their vision come to life. Passionately working alongside each other to bring a one-of-a-kind festival to the queer community of Austin, the pair excitedly awaits the moment they’ve dreamed of for over a year.
What’s the OUTsider story? How did this idea come about?
Curran – Basically, about 14 months ago, a bunch of folks that had been working with festivals in town for awhile were all meeting just talking about festivals – talking about what we liked about them and what we didn’t like about them or what we wanted to do differently. At that point I had been the artistic director of aGLIFF, the gay and lesbian film festival in town, so I came at this discussion with a lot of thoughts about festivals and again, what I always wanted to do but never could do. So we all asked each other, “Well, why don’t we create this festival? Why don’t we do these things that we have thought about, that we’ve been wanting to do, that we’re interested in and excited about?” We wanted to work against the one-medium festival model, which I think is unsustainable in some ways as time goes by – to keep art forms separate because so much overlaps. There’s so much bleed between them, between film and theater and dance and in between all those art forms. So, we wanted to create a space that respects that, a space for these mediums to come together. We wanted to see what kind of energy, excitement and magic happens when you get all these different queer folks from different places, from different disciplines, from different corners of the world, together in one space.
We also wanted to create a space where conversations can really happen and people can think about and talk about what they’re seeing and experiencing on a deeper level. We wanted to have the conference component of it as well, not just Q&A’s, but also just having artists participate in panels with academics where they can really talk about their work. The audience can really ask them questions about their work in a sustained way. So, those were kind of the two things that we really wanted to do and that formed the frame of how we started to develop OUTsider.
Annie – The group of us that were there sitting around talking about it, it was the board that is now.. maybe minus a few people. But most of us have this film background and thought it would be really interesting to see how we can connect with other art forms. I remember it being a really fun conversation.
The OUTsider Festival is a one of a kind queer festival – what sets this festival a part from others similar to it or other arts festivals with queer contributors?
Curran – There are definitely other festivals that we looked at and continue to look at as models – other multi-arts festivals like Fusebox in town, as well as the history of DIY, underground queer festivals. So, in some way, the festival is creating something new, in some ways it’s honoring the past of how queer culture and queer festivals used to happen as well. The conference component is a really big distinguisher. That doesn’t really happen, even in a film festival where there’s also a conference component. They’re still very traditional. Not only do we have a conference component, but we’ve tried to shake up the conference itself. The way everything is programmed, from the conference to the showcases, it’s mixing up how you would normally do it at a festival. And these panels will happen, actually, in my living room on the couch. Part of the reason for that is to create an environment that encourages people to talk to one another, that makes it intimate, that makes it not this separation between audience and people that are talking. We’re also pairing things together in such a way that it mixes things up. Everything that we’ve done to program the festival is really trying to think outside the box of what festivals normally do. Also, we’re taking over manor road so we’re using that whole street in creative ways.
Why the name OUTsider?
Curran – We call ourselves OUTsider for a reason, sort of have multiple meanings to it. Out as in queer, so it’s a reference to queerness, but outsider also in terms of being outside of the norm, being outside of the box, being marginalized, and so the work, as Annie was saying, that we’re really highlighting is stuff that either doesn’t get a lot of time at other festivals or other spots or that’s marginalized identities in some way. So we have a lot of queer of color work, we have a lot of transgender work, we have a lot of work by women. We have a lot of stuff that maybe gets put on the sidelines at other festivals, or for whatever reason is hard to program at other festivals, stuff that’s not very safe or pushing the envelope in some way. So really trying to think of stuff that’s really wonderful and deserves the spotlight but not like just the sort of, gay, white male representation that we see everywhere in the world.
Why is a festival like this one important, more specifically for Austin?
Curran – It’s just the perfect place for a festival like this. I feel like right now, queer culture is at a real zenith in Austin. I think the queer community here is very unique in that we’re a small big city. There’s still a tight knit creative community. And there is still sort of that feeling of community here.
Annie – It’s also still an academic community.
Curran – Yeah, it’s a university town so it’s a very unique place that art, academia, the community are all really strong here. So there’s been challenges in making this festival but in some ways the city sort of really worked with us. It’s the perfect time, the perfect place for this kind of festival.
I always say Austin is a good place to try things because the community is so supportive, so they’ll try it with you.
Curran – Exactly, it’s a place to take a chance. And it’s also a part of our identity too, we’re the weird city, we’re the city that does things differently so it’s okay to take those chances and it’s okay to be weird and strange and that’s a part of what people like here.
What’s been some of your best or proudest moments in putting this festival together?
Annie – I think our proudest moment is going to be seeing it there, but I think right now, I’m just really proud of our team. There’s so much work, as you can imagine, that goes into putting on a first year festival and creating something that is so different creates a lot of challenges that I didn’t even really think all the way through or we didn’t think all the way through [laughs].
Curran – And we created a nonprofit from the ground up and this has all just been our passion, you know. As a filmmaker I keep thinking, this is like a film, it’s very similar to that where you’re an artist, you’re passionate, you want to create something and you dedicate all this time, sweat, energy, tears and you’ve got your team and you do it together and that’s really what this has felt like and the length of it too. So, I’m so proud that the team has just kept going.
And most challenging?
Curran – I think like anything, especially a non-profit and starting a festival, finding funding for sure, has been the toughest thing. We knew we had this great idea, we knew it was going to be something unique and different and something that Austin needed and really wanted. So finding funding for something and having the community believe in us, just trusting us to do it because we haven’t had a festival behind us to prove this is what we are. It was really challenging finding funding for something that hadn’t happened yet. We were just describing because we didn’t have all of our artists lined up to specifically say who’s all going to be there.. And we still raised $35,000 on Indiegogo that way – so it’s actually turning into a proud moment [laughs] but it was a lot of work to prove yourself and ask the community to trust you.
Annie – I think it’s just something you really need to experience, but how do you explain that experience or how do you get that across when it hasn’t happened yet. So I think that’s been the big challenge that sort of feeds into how do we get people to support us. But I feel like people have been amazing about supporting us at the same time.
So what can people except at the OUTsider Festival – what can we look forward to?
“There’s a real nod towards acknowledging where we came from, which I think is really important because those histories and those legacies don’t get passed down so much in the queer community…” – Curran Nault
Annie – Well, a cool program for one [laughs].
Curran – Yes, a really amazing program. I think it’s going to be things that people have never seen before. It’s going to be a festival of discovery – discovering all this weird, crazy, incredible, inspiring art that people may or may not have heard of before. But I think it’s really going to give people a whole new outlook on the world and what’s out there. There’ll be so much space for interaction. I think people are going to come out of this festival feeling even more attached to their community, or feeling a part of the community for the first time perhaps. I think it’s really going to encourage that sort of coming together of people, and different kinds of people, artists, academics, general audiences. [People can expect] a nod towards history as well.
There’s a real nod towards acknowledging where we came from, which I think is really important because those histories and those legacies don’t get passed down so much in the queer community because it’s a different kind of family structure. Of course, you’re not born into a gay family that’s going to pass that down to you, so a lot of that history gets lost and there’s a lot of forgetting in the queer community. So, it’s really exciting to me to remind people or let them know for the first time that they may not know about. That’s also something people really take away from the festival.
Annie– I think people can expect to go in not really knowing what to expect. They’ll have a personal connection to things, they’ll have an emotional connection to things, they’ll learn stuff, they’ll have fun, they’ll laugh and they’ll be able to participate in the creation of a lot of different things. They can even get a queer haircut!
What part of the festival are you most excited for? or most anticipating?
Curran – I am super excited about the Gay Wax Museum, partly because it really speaks to the festival at large because it’s a 16-artist project and artists are coming from different disciplines so it’s really symbolic of what the festival, in general, is. It’s also highlighting marginalized queer figures from history. So it’s also symbolic of the festival in that way.
Annie – I’m excited about all the programing, but what i’m really anticipating is after the shows, just watching and being a part of the audience as they talk about what they just saw and the panels and the talk-backs and the conferences and all of the discussion around what they just saw because I know that it’s going to be different and I know people are going to be shocked and interested and learn new things. I keep envisioning myself watching people talk about all the unique shows that they’re seeing and I just can’t wait for that moment.
What’s your hopes for OUTsider in the future?
Curran – First of all, I hope that we have many years ahead of us and I think we will. My hope is that we keep reinventing and keep staying true – not ever letting it become too rigid, or set in its way. We constantly want to be re-inventing and coming up with new ideas. One of the exciting things about the concept is that it has room for us to switch things up constantly.
Annie – It is a nonprofit organization so I sort of dream about it becoming something where the festival is the culminating, big event of the year, but that it’s a space, a home, a resource for queer artists and outsiders in general.
Interview by: Megz Tillman
Photos by: Devaki Knowles
For L Style G Style – storytellers of the Austin LGBT community.
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