With the economy in flux and Vancouver artists enduring funding cuts like never before, one man is urging members of Vancouver’s queer arts community to weather the storm together.
Terry Costa, producer of Vancouver’s Next Top Gay Model and the arts and entertainment director for the Vancouver Pride Society, is now the driving force behind Under One Umbrella, a website and Facebook group that he hopes will help Vancouver’s queer performing artists take centre stage.
“The way things are going, even though Metro Vancouver is the largest per-capita centre of artists in Canada, we’re the ones who keep getting cut and have less structure and support,” says Costa. “Let’s band together, let’s work together and that way we have more power.”
So far the Facebook group has attracted about 25 supporters. Seán Cummings, director of Screaming Weenie productions in Vancouver, is a member but says he’s still sketchy on the details. “It’s a warm, fuzzy thought, but I don’t know what the intentions are yet.”
It seems elusive, but Costa has a plan. Once the group gets bigger he says he will begin marketing through an official website that will serve as a one-stop-shop in terms of finding queer performing artists in the Lower Mainland.
“The first part is gathering the numbers. The second part is creating a marketing campaign around our shows,” he says.
Of course, successful marketing requires the green to back it. While Costa says the initiative did not stem from the recent government cuts to everything arts-related in the province, he acknowledges that queer artists are in need of financial support. “In our gay community, we’re always rushing so much to do something that we forget sometimes to promote it because there’s not enough money and there’s no one responsible.”
So how will Costa squeeze funds from an already pinched industry? Simple, he says.
“It’s really just about a loonie.”
For every ticket a production company or individual artist sells while under the promotional support of Under One Umbrella, a dollar will come back to the organization. “So, my show sold 100 tickets, then I have $100 that goes back to Under One Umbrella. Your show sold 1,000 – woo hoo! – $1,000, that kind of idea.”
David Blue, director of Raving Theatre in Vancouver, says he hadn’t yet heard of the initiative but likes the concept. “Networking is always good no matter what… it’s neat to see somebody diversifying and doing something different like this.”
Like Cummings and others, Blue hopes that a queer cultural centre in Vancouver may someday become a reality, and thinks Costa’s initiative may help.
“It’s been a wish of mine to have a gay and lesbian arts centre with one or two performance spaces and help, especially nowadays, with fundraising, because it’s so freaking impossible to get a dollar from the government.”
The most important goal of Costa’s right now is education. “Under One Umbrella is for the rest of the world. Our community standing up for itself and saying, you know what, we are worth it. We shouldn’t be afraid to say who we are.”