Call to Artists: Queer Men Artist Lab: New Orleans


Artistic field:




The goal of the Queer Men Artist Lab: New Orleans is to equip artists with tools and strategies for picking up the unfinished work of history and speak to contemporary civic discourse around social, economic, and environmental issues. Through interactive sessions in the Lab and panel discussions as part of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire 50th Anniversary Commemoration, artists will explore their process and practice; present a slideshow of their work; receive supportive, critical, curatorial feedback about their ideas; and discuss contemporary issues. 

Is the Lab only open to Queer Men? How are we defining Queer Men? The lab is open to any artist regardless of how they identify who wants to make contemporary artwork that speaks to the experience of Queer Men. We think of “Queer Men” as an amorphous state of being, one that is self-determined and inclusive of a broad range of human experiences. In this sense, we do not seek to define Queer Men rather we seek to question, What does it mean to be a queer man today? 

Queer Men Artist Lab: New Orleans will take as its premise that 21st century queer men’s identity is the culmination of decades of construction and ask: What does it mean to be a queer man in the 21st century? Are apps leading us to think of each other as products to consume? How do we understand and celebrate the diversity of our bodies, those that are natural or manufactured by gym culture and ideas of hypermasculinity? What does it mean to “come out” in a world that promises acceptance? What is the place for men who identify as straight but love, desire, and yearn for male affection and sex? What does it mean to be a queer boy today? How do we evolve, grow, develop, mature in a world where we are misunderstood and fetishized, but lacking role models? How do we grow old when so many of us thought we wouldn’t live past 40? How do we remember who came before us? How do we pass knowledge to future generations of queer men? How do we support young queer men carving new spaces for themselves? How do we support our lesbian, trans, and non-binary siblings? What does feminism mean to us? Covid-19 was not our first pandemic. How do we unpack the trauma of seeing how much the world can respond when they care about who is affected? How do we stand in solidarity with those who live in societies that criminalize homosexuality? Bar is church and our bars are dying. What is the future of queer men’s space? How do we decolonize queer identity and create space that welcomes and celebrates queer men of color? What is our place in a late-stage capitalism that treats us as labor and assets? How do we build and sustain community? How do we understand our place in the world? How do we make ourselves understood? How can artists help us make sense of all of this? This is not an exhaustive list. 

During the lab, artists will collaborate on a large-scale collage as a way to explore artist practice, process, and meaning making. 

The Lab will center on the 50th Anniversary of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire. “In 1973, the deadliest fire in New Orleans’ history occurred in a small gay bar at 604 Iberville Street in the French Quarter. The Up Stairs Lounge was a refuge of love and acceptance in the New Orleans community until, in a matter of 19 minutes, it became a symbol of tragedy and rejection. Thirty-two people perished in the fire, and the New Orleans LGBT+ community was changed forever. At the time, local police did not consider the tragedy a top priority. One officer told a reporter, “This was, after all, a queer bar.” No elected official responded publicly to the fire. Archbishop Philip Hannan denied the victims Catholic funerals. Radio commentators joked that the victims’ remains should be buried in fruit jars. The arson at the Up Stairs Lounge remains officially unsolved despite being the deadliest crime against LGBT+ people in US history until the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. In 2023, a 50th anniversary commemoration will document and share this overlooked event with the community and honor the victims and their families.”

Artists will meet in the days before the commemoration to explore the state of contemporary art, its role in society, and how it functions in the current art world ecosystem. We will discuss how art makes its way to galleries, art centers, and museums. We will consider the history of queer art.

Artists will then participate in the Up Stairs Lounge Fire 50th Anniversary Commemoration. Events will include presentations and panel discussions, a memorial service, and a second line funeral procession culminating in a candlelight service. An opening reception and informational presentation will be held at The Historic New Orleans Collection. The panel discussions and presentations will examine the event and response, a review of the many creative endeavors that have been produced to tell this gruesome story, and present-day implications of the fire. During the Commemoration, we will meet once a day for discussion and reflection. After the Commemoration, we will discuss project ideas and proposal writing.

Artists will complete the Lab with a project proposal for an exhibition or a book and a sample work that will be considered for an event that will take place in 2025 in New Orleans. Kolaj Institute and the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana will consider proposals for additional support.

Queer Men Artist Lab: New Orleans is intended for self-motivated artists, regardless of the stage in their career, who want to develop a practice of working with history to create and present art that embeds itself in non-traditional spaces and speaks to a general community about contemporary issues.

The lab is open to any artist regardless of how they identify. Artists from Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, and queer communities are encouraged to apply.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Entry Fee:

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