The artistic director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival has been nominated for a prestigious award.

SD (Shaira) Holman is one of two nominees for this year’s Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA, under the Art, Culture and Design category. Susan Van der Flier, a Vancouver Opera board director, has also been nominated.

Since 1984, the awards have recognized outstanding women whose achievements contribute to the community’s well-being and future.

The YWCA says Holman has played a key role in providing a platform that highlights and celebrates gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender writers, musicians, filmmakers, visual artists, dancers and performers.

“As artistic director of the Queer Arts Festival (QAF), Shaira’s vision has transformed the festival from a tiny volunteer-run organization to one of the fastest growing cultural festivals in Canada,” the YWCA says on its website.

The YWCA points to Holman’s establishment of a mentorship program within QAF, a bid to provide space for queer youth to develop and display their art. It also highlights Holman’s acclaimed photography project, Butch: Not Like the Other Girls, a series of 81 portraits that showcase women who exist outside the narrow definition of what it means to be female.

Butch, which first adorned bus shelters throughout Vancouver and was later exhibited at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (The Cultch), is now set to tour San Francisco, Boston and Toronto this fall. Part of the project is now at Heartwood, the space formerly occupied by Rhizome Café.

A book based on the project will be launched officially June 19 at Little Sister’s bookstore.

Holman says she feels “very honoured” to be nominated for the Women of Distinction Award, “especially since I think there are so many other very deserving artists that I didn’t see nominated.”

“I got to give kudos to the Young Women’s Christian organization for nominating me — bearded, butch, Jewish dyke,” she adds. She says she doesn’t seem to fit the mould of the award’s previous recipients, who seemed to be more corporate.

The winner will be announced June 3.

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