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Queer Arts Fest artistic director wins YWCA award

SD Holman recognized for showcasing LGBT artists and community

The artistic director of Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival, Shaira (SD) Holman, has won a 2014 Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA, under the arts, culture and design category. Credit: Shaira (SD) Holman (self-portrait)

Shaira (SD) Holman, artistic director of the Queer Arts Festival, has won the 2014 Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA, under the arts, culture and design category.

The award, which recognizes outstanding women whose achievements contribute to the community’s well-being and future, was presented to Holman at a ceremony held June 3.

“I got to give kudos to the Young Women’s Christian organization for nominating me — bearded, butch, Jewish dyke,” Holman said prior to the awards ceremony.

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.

“We’re so proud of her,” says Rachel Iwaasa, QAF’s director of operations. “It’s so great to see her getting this level of recognition. The Women of Distinction is recognized as one of Canada’s most prestigious awards, and Shaira has been working really hard for a really long time, doing her work, which ultimately is also work for our community through the arts.”

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 was enthusiastically received at a showing in Easthampton, Massachusetts, and is set to tour San Francisco, Boston and Toronto in the fall.

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

Part of the project is now at Heartwood, the space formerly occupied by Rhizome Café.