Meet the heroes helping queer people around the world access the life-saving magic of art

For the queer community, “art helps us see that we are not alone and that there are others who understand what it is to feel the way we do”.

That’s according to Travis Chamberlain, executive director of the New York-based Queer|Art.

“Art, in this way, truly does have the capacity to save lives, especially within communities struggling within systemic oppression and isolation,” they add. “Art brings people together.”

Queer|Art is a non-profit community project that connects and empowers LGBT+ artists across the globe. Its core program is a creative and professional development program that brings together creatives working in film, literature, performance, and visual art to engage in a year-long exchange.

The mentorship scheme, which culminates in an ambitious annual exhibition, has been given a significant boost by a partnership with the Australian footwear brand Blundstone, which has committed to an annual “no strings attached” donation.

Travis explains the partnership is enough to help “substantially expand”, enabling it to “offer new professional development opportunities to applicants”.

One such opportunity has been a commission for Pride month, in which Queer|Art mentor C. Finley has worked closely with Blundstone to produce a new work of art specifically for Pride.

C. Finley created a special piece in collaboration with Blundstone. (C. Finley)

As well as its mentorship programme, Queer|Art hosts a rapidly growing international awards initiative that presently gives out more than $65,000 (£46,000) to LGBT+ artists throughout the world. It is also in the process of further diversifying its board, something made possible through the Blundstone partnership.

To coincide with partnership, Blundstone has launched its #2105 Rainbow boot, a re-imaging of its iconic ankle boot with coloured stitching that echoes the eternally iconic Pride flag. It arrives as the LGBT+ community begins to be finally able to come together once more after a year unlike any other.

“This Pride will be unifying for younger and older generations of queer people,” says Travis. “It will bring us together in ways that the early impact of AIDS had previously separated us into generations profoundly shaped by different traumas. Having now lived through the pile-up of traumas that have been COVID and Trump together, we have a newly shared understanding of our collective resilience from which we will emerge stronger and with vastly more care and compassion for each other. It will be wonderful to celebrate that together.”

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