It isn’t every day that someone like Dax Dasilva comes along. The software mogul is the founder of Never Apart — a visionary not-for-profit queer arts organization based in the burgeoning Mile End neighbourhood in Montreal.
The same can be said of Michael Venus, who was recently appointed as executive director of the multi-disciplinary project and is the director of Snow Queen, a documentary about Canada’s rich history of drag premiering Saturday, Nov 7 in Montreal.
Never Apart’s mandate is one of hope and change — to bridge queer communities through music, art, activism, social gatherings, panel discussions and cultural engagement on a global scale.
It’s a tall order, but it’s been done before. The late Will Munro brought queers of every stripe together in Toronto with his art and now infamous Vazaleen parties. Cities like New York and Berlin followed his lead. He had a global impact. Whether or not that was his explicit intention, or just accidental we’ll never know. Under Venus’ creative control and direction, Never Apart is locked and loaded to deliver a similar cultural punch.
Daily Xtra spoke with Dasilva and Venus about Never Apart and their plans to bring about social change and connect artists through the visionary project.
Daily Xtra: How did Never Apart come to be?
Dax Dasilva: Never Apart came about because I wanted to create a non-profit that would help create some of the changes we all want to see in the world, and to do it through culture. The availability of the space on St-Urbain after Lightspeed moved its offices to Old Montreal allowed us to showcase art, music, guest speakers, events, screenings and more in a setting designed to inspire. We wanted to bring the creative communities of Montreal and abroad together in one space, and so far the result has been beyond expectations.
Is there a crossover between the worlds of software and art?
Dax Dasilva: While I’ve been creating software since I was 13, I was also interested in the visual arts. Instead of studying computer science in university, I studied art history and religion at [the University of British Columbia]. To me there is art, design, music and soul at both Lightspeed and Never Apart, and while they have different missions, to me they represent two aspects of what I love about Montreal and what the city is great at — technology and culture.
What is the vision and intention of Never Apart?
Michael Venus: The vision of Never Apart from the start was to end separation; of people from nature, from each other, from their spiritual side. We live in a fast selfie-culture where things are very surface and lacking substance. Our goal was to bring people together and celebrate diversity and individuality. Basically, be the change — activism through art.
Tell us about opening up a queer art space in Montreal.
Michael Venus: It has been a wonderful ride opening Never Apart in Montreal, people have been very receptive and we have been like a magnet attracting and aligning people and projects. We are based in the Mile End, which is booming with creative types, and over the past years there has been a huge migration of queer fantastic people moving here. There is definitely something great happening here and I feel Montreal is going through a new renaissance and we are delighted to be a part of that. Over the past few months since we opened in mid-June, we have put on tons of on and off-site events that have all been extremely well-received making us feel very supported.
How do you plan on connecting with artists outside Montreal?
Michael Venus: We welcome submissions from artists who can relate and feel a resonance to what we are doing and we will be putting out call for submission on an ongoing basis. We love working with other non-profits and organizations that share our vision. In Toronto, we love Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, The 519, The Gladstone Hotel, Video Fag and would love to align ourselves more with places like that and ones who are serious about bringing about positive change.
Tell us about your documentary Snow Queen.
Michael Venus: Snow Queen came about last year when Out TV commissioned me to make a Canadian documentary focusing on people(s) who have made significant strides in the queer community. I have wanted to do a film exposing and exploring the flourishing drag culture in Canada and celebrating our herstory for years. We have so much talent from coast to coast and I feel it isn’t highlighted or showcased. As Canadians, we often do not celebrate our own and our American counterparts often eclipse our hometown glamour. I felt like I had to make this and was kind of shocked it hadn’t been already done.