New Ot­tawa fes­ti­val would cel­e­brate fe­male-iden­ti­fy­ing and gen­der-queer artists

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU - PETER HUM phum@post­ twit­­ter­hum

When Ni­cole Ti­tus moved to Ot­tawa from St. Catharines sev­eral years ago, the for­mer stage man­ager looked for work in the arts. Her search, how­ever, wasn’t easy.

“I knew no one,” says Ti­tus, 26. “It was su­per in­tim­i­dat­ing coming to a new city and try­ing to find artists to col­lab­o­rate and work with.”

She and a group of like-minded friends in Ot­tawa’s arts scene hope to make net­work­ing, cre­at­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing eas­ier for them­selves and their peers with a fes­ti­val called the Up­roar Arts Fes­ti­val, which would present per­for­mances and works of all kinds by fe­male-iden­ti­fy­ing and gen­der-queer artists. It would de­but next year.

To that end, Up­roar’s pro­duc­ers have be­gun cre­at­ing buzz on so­cial me­dia, and on Satur­day night they will hold a fundraiser filled with spo­ken-word per­for­mances, the­atre, mu­sic and vis­ual arts at Black Squir­rel Books in Old Ot­tawa South.

“There’s a ton of great work hap­pen­ing in the city by fe­male iden­ti­fy­ing and gen­der-queer artists ,” says Ti­tus. Up­roar, she says, in­tends to cre­ate “a space where that work can be cel­e­brated, and where th­ese artists can come to­gether across dis­ci­plines.

“We’re in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing a kind of com­mu­nity ... that’s re­ally at the heart of what we’re try­ing to do.”

Brenda Dunn is one of two vis­ual artists whose work will be ex­hib­ited and up for sale at Satur­day’s event. “I’m par­tic­i­pat­ing in Up­roar be­cause vis­i­bil­ity mat­ters. Up­roar is run by women and fo­cuses on show­cas­ing fe­male per­form­ers and that’s the kind of room I love to be in,” Dunn says.

She adds that in her pro­fes­sion, she of­ten meets peo­ple who had pur­sued artis­tic work, only to give it up. “They went on to do more ‘prac­ti­cal’ things in large part be­cause they did not see them­selves rep­re­sented and so couldn’t imag­ine be­ing suc­cess­ful. I’d like to change that,” Dunn says.

The in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary na­ture of the fes­ti­val also ap­peals to Dunn, who calls her­self “a firm be­liever in find­ing peo­ple who do work you admire and join­ing them.”

On the pro­gram on Satur­day night is a range of eclec­tic young per­form­ers. One is as­pir­ing R’n’B/ pop singer-song­writer Sum­mer El Sayed. An­other is Ot­tawa the­atri­cal per­former Brit­tany John­ston, an Anishi­naabe woman from Ser­pent River First Na­tion near Lake Huron. John­ston will present an ex­cerpt from a work-in-progress about “what it means to be an Indige­nous woman to­day,” Ti­tus says.

Also per­form­ing is Rhube Knox, a queer spo­ken-word artist and sex worker who ad­dresses love, trauma, men­tal ill­ness and sex-work stigma. Knox took fourth place at the Cana­dian In­di­vid­ual Po­etry Slam and first in the Ot­tawa Womxn’s Slam, and will go to Dal­las, Texas in March 2019 to com­pete at the Women of the World Po­etry Slam.

In­spi­ra­tional speaker Clary Cham­bers says she jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to take part in Satur­day’s fundraiser be­cause she be­lieves “there is a unique per­spec­tive and em­pow­er­ment that comes from women sup­port­ing each other’s craft.”

Cham­bers says she traces her own en­tre­pre­neur­ial suc­cess “to the sup­port, guid­ance and in­sight of fel­low women. I’m grate­ful for the com­mu­nity of strong women I’ve been able to build up around me and can’t wait to be apart of such an im­por­tant and im­pact­ful event.”

Other spo­ken-word artists are mem­bers of Tell ’Em Girl, a re­cently formed Ot­tawa-based col­lec­tive of young fe­male po­ets who stress em­pow­er­ment.

Ot­tawa ac­tor Kate Smith will host the fundraiser, and Sara Mann­se­ich­ner, also known as DJ Mani Pedi, will pro­vide mu­sic for danc­ing at the end of the night.

“I’ve cho­sen to take part be­cause I would love to see more wom­en­run events and fes­ti­vals in the city. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant for th­ese spa­ces to ex­ist,” Mann­se­ich­ner says. “Women, queer and trans folks are in a po­si­tion where we don’t al­ways feel safe at­tend­ing events.”

Ti­tus says that through the fundraiser and an on­line cam­paign, she and her col­leagues hope to raise about $2,000 that would be used for costs such as venue ren­tals, hir­ing tech­ni­cians and mar­ket­ing.

“We’d like to make as big of a splash as pos­si­ble in our first year, but the size of the fes­ti­val will be con­tin­gent on how much fund­ing we can source,” she says.

She hopes that the in­au­gu­ral Up­roar fes­ti­val in 2019 will fill a week­end and show­case as many as 15 artists. “We’re also plan­ning to run pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and net­work­ing events through­out the year to help build that sense of

com­mu­nity and foster col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Ti­tus adds.

Ti­tus would love to see Up­roar in the coming years grow and present artists from an even broader range of dis­ci­plines.

“We’ve had an amaz­ing re­sponse from the com­mu­nity so far. We re­ally want to make this as big and fun of an event as pos­si­ble,” she says.

Brenda Dunn

Clary Cham­bers

Sara Mann­se­ich­ner, a.k.a. DJ Mani Pedi

Mai Lan Tomp­kins

Sa­mar El Faki

Rhube Knox

Brit­tany John­ston

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