DIY for Visibility: Queer, Trans Artists of Color on Creating New Spaces

As an indigiqueer writer and curator, visibility is at the heart of what I look for in content. Through its evolution, our local art scene has had its share of radically fueled movements, but has also hosted its share of political thoughtlessness. Its “strides” become less meaningful when they fail to inclusively represent and listen to the voices of marginalized members of the community—specifically queer, trans artists of color.

I see the future of this community being put into question—closings of art spaces; lack of funding; the tragic burning of Robert’s Shoes, a DIY studio and art space home to many transgender, non-binary, people of color and womxn artists. And while it is important to examine these setbacks, that narrative is a distraction from experiencing the scene in its current, truest form. Perhaps the question is not what is happening to this QTPOC-produced art, but where is this art happening. More importantly, how can we support it.

These four local performers and organizers are actively reframing the narrative. They’re creating content based on the idea that the personal is not just political, but artistic, and are fostering a sustainable art scene through collaboration and DIY activism.

Zeam Porter is a genderqueer, black and Native poet/artist/activist, currently an ambassador for Patrick’s Cabaret and member of the Transgender Equity Council.

“Things come to an end for better beginnings. I believe we are seeing a new generation of organizing occur that is unlike any other. I see DIY spaces growing and multiplying in both scale and magnitude. As organizations close, more artists are asking themselves if they need to engage in the nonprofit industrial complex or not. I believe this leaning into community can only help artistic endeavors flourish.

There is not just a sense of death but rebirth. Through the loss and the pain, people are gathering and creating. I can only hope a new culture is forming where we are not dependent upon grants and government funding for the arts to occur. Instead, nonprofit initiatives should supplement and depend on the DIYs.”

Madre Rosa is a Minneapolis-born, Cubanx DJ, curator, and scene maker. Madre is the co-founder of DJ-U, a workshop series and mentorship program, by and for femme/non-binary people of color that teaches the basics of vinyl and digital DJing.

“I think the future of the queer scene needs to be led by queer women/trans/femme POC. There are very few spaces locally that WTF and non-binary POC feel comfortable or safe, often these events can be closed to specific circles. There are even less which are not supported by liquor sales. I am personally focused on creating new and sustainable projects. After seeing what happened to Madame and Mothership, I vowed to never rely on the sales of alcohol within this community. Being a DJ comes with expectation; there is a lifestyle attached to it. We’re trying to change that.

WTF/NB POC have a lot of untapped potential when it comes to DJing, but we often don’t have the support and funds to use DJ equipment. We believe that having visibility will change [the] DJ landscape worldwide.”

Xochi de la Luna is an agender, queer, first-

generation Salvadorian/Mexican immigrant, multi-disciplinary artist. Xochi organizes the queer performance variety shows Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories and Vector 9.

“The natural process of the future queer art scene seems to be emphasizing that space isn’t just physical. Space is a time, an emotion, an atmosphere, wherever you feel comfortable opening up and sharing your work. As time goes on, we might see more independent collectives and theater companies working together to create space wherever they can. The future is a network of creatives who understand that creative scarcity is an illusion. There may be a push back from more established artists, companies and collectives, but it seems inevitable to me. Once on the same page, the lack of funding for the arts that exists now, may not be an issue if we all work together to really figure out how to allot grants, and other sponsorships.”

Marcel Michelle-Mobama is a producer, performer, director, choreographer, and curator, combining her experience as a black/latinx/queer/trans womxn with a passionate study of movement, theatre, burlesque, and improv.

“The arts in Minneapolis are getting better but we as a society are getting worse. I am both incredibly optimistic and extraordinarily afraid. Obviously, I believe in progress and the power of the human experience or I wouldn’t do what I do, but I also wouldn’t do what I do if everything was okay. I feel in some ways like a medium-sized ripple preceding a slightly larger ripple. Visibility is definitely on the rise, and that is the initial avenue.

Sustainability is difficult to talk about because you’re talking about the dismantling of the very systems that cause these closures and affects where funding goes. I work a lot on small scale which is exhausting but offers more freedom and room for joy I think than the larger, more restrained, if less frequent, events. I think a good model for now is the companies/venues/artists doing that kind of work, and direct patronage is so incredibly valuable and is being rediscovered all the time. It’s harder to enjoy art when it’s cramped and expensive. Or harder to get the message behind the glitz. Go to small shows; support your friends; tip, tip, tip. The future is DIY in a supported space.”