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A place where true expression can happen

by Chloё Lalonde January 23, 2018 0 comment

Dawson College Peace Centre hosts a month of programming dedicated to LGBTQ+ activism

The Dawson College Peace Centre is a relatively new addition to the CEGEP’s academic and community programs. The centre offers students the opportunity to complete a certificate in peace studies, and also hosts events for the Dawson community that everyone can participate in. This year, Diana Rice, the centre’s director, in collaboration with the Dawson Student Union and the Warren G. Flowers Gallery, organized the month-long series Queer & Peace. For the next few weeks, Dawson will be hosting a series of panels and workshops, all tied to the exhibition of professional and student artwork.

“Having an exhibition allows students to walk through the space, taking in a new perspective while reflecting and interpreting the work in their own way,” Rice said. “I think that, in talking about these kinds of issues, to ignore reconciliation and social change is shortsighted […] Art has always been tied to politics.”

Kent Monkman’s sketches (far right), are accompanied by the work of Dawson College students. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Rice explained that, over the course of the year, the Dawson Peace Centre organizes events that offer an alternative perspective on a selected theme. The choice to base an exhibition around what it means to be queer enables people to start a dialogue.

“You don’t have to know about gender/identity politics to participate. Art allows you to interact with these ideas without prior knowledge,” Rice said. “Art allows for a unique kind of space where people have the opportunity to express themselves freely without worrying about boundaries, which is so important for the LGBTQ+ community.”

According to Rice, these various conversations are explored in Queer & Peace by juxtaposing the work of students with the work of well-known, professional artists like Kent Monkman, Dayna Danger and Catherine Opie.

The LGBTQ+ community is very diverse—a white trans person will have different experiences than a trans person of colour, for example. Each artist expresses different experiences in their work. Each piece tells a story, demanding attention and acknowledgement of the injustice and inequality the LGBTQ+ community faces on a daily basis.

Monkman and Danger are Canadian artists whose works focus on Indigenous identity. Monkman explores this by including his drag alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, in most of his work, while Danger aims to change the way we see Indigenous women.

Also featured in Queer & Peace is Montreal-based multimedia artist Ben Liu. His work is whimsical, embracing both femininity and international diversity.

A painting by Dawson student Yue Feng Jiang (above) is displayed across from Catherine Opie’s photographs. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Catherine Opie is an American photographer based in Los Angeles, and is interested in how identities are formed in response to one’s socio-cultural environment. In the exhibition, Opie’s work is displayed directly across from a piece painted by Dawson student Yue Feng Jiang.

According to Rice, one of the biggest problems institutions have is caused by the separation of professional and amateur work. “You can’t have a true conversation and true dialogue if you aren’t willing to break down these barriers,” Rice said. “Even in the art world, we often get caught up in these oppressing structures.”

On Jan. 23, the Peace Centre will be hosting an LGBTQ+ activists panel. The Queer & Peace vernissage is at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, and the exhibition will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays until Feb. 8. The coming weeks will also feature intersectional panel discussions, a film screening and a performance by local drag queens. To find out more, check out the Dawson Peace Centre’s event page on Facebook.

Photos by Mackenzie Lad

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