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Pride Month's Artsy Side 

Wednesday, Jun 10 2015

The longest-running event of its kind in the nation, the Queer Cultural Center's National Queer Arts Festival is back for the entire month of June, right along with the rainbow flags along Market Street. If the sight of tanning salons capitalizing on Pride by painting anodyne messages in their windows makes you shudder at all the commercialism, QCC has the antidote in the form of radical art, from Hanky Code: The Movie to an evening of tales by people who've moved from San Francisco to the American South, or vice versa.

Pamela Peniston, QCC's artistic director (and a founding board member), spoke to SF Weekly about the festival's offerings. She's the kind of woman who's inclined to call everything "absolutely wonderful," but this year's programming is so broad and well-thought-out that we're sure you'll agree in nearly every case.

Peniston should know, as she's been "plotting" this for some 20 years. A task force that developed out of an "amazing ordeal" began funding groups "that served and were grounded in underserved communities," like the LGBT community, Asian-Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. There was no pink-washing.

"It wasn't just 'Oh, we're going to do our queer show now,'" Peniston said. "You had to be queer, and you had to be working from that perspective."

With that, we present five highlights from the latter half of the National Queer Arts Festival.


Although it sounds like a tactic that young radicals might deploy to boo Rick Santorum off a stage, GLITTER BOMB is the heart of QCC's entire month, an exhibition of dozens of artists who've grappled with various levels of exclusion from the mainstream (or not). Socially conscious, aesthetically challenging, and effortlessly brilliant, GLITTER BOMB is the index of the alternative circa 2015. And it runs for more than two more weeks, so there's no excuse not to pop in. (Note: no physical glitter allowed.) Through June 27, at SOMArts, 934 Brannan St., 415-863-1414 or Artist-curator walk-through Saturday, June 20, noon.

No Tears for the Creatures of the Night

In Peniston's own words, this is "going to be a really wonderful evening if you have your punk on." Vacant Closet Collective presents a night based on the work of activist-artist Will Munro, who died in 2010. Combining musical performances with photography from the scene's queer underground, it traces the lineage of riot grrrl and other genres from the mid-'70s on. Friday, June 12, 7:30 p.m., at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St., 415-902-2071 or

Queer Women of Color Film Festival

The Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project's film series might sound to the uninitiated like a small subsection of Frameline, but it's a full, stand-alone festival in its own right, with a staggering 30 films in total. From documentaries about police brutality (Cincinnati Goddamn) to depictions of gender-nonconforming people in the Global South, the three days of features intermingled with shorts will expand the horizons of even the most battle-tested San Francisco lefty. Friday-Sunday, June 12-14, at the Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St.,

Y'All Come Back Now: Stories of Queer Southern Migration

Just as San Francisco contains the liberal Haight and the conservative Pacific Heights, the South is far from an undifferentiated region of homophobia. Check your coastal Californian snobbery at the door as Amanda Arkansassy Harris and Jaison Gardner screen various performers' stories about their varied experiences across the former Confederacy, from metropolitan Atlanta to the most rural pocket. It's "y'all-inclusive"! Saturday, June 13, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a reception at 5 p.m., at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market St., 415-865-5555 or

Hanky Code: The Movie

Before gay sex involved drop-down menus where you could click on whatever you were into, the best way to find like-minded fetishists was to look at the bandannas sticking out of their back pockets. The "Hanky Code" is the full list, from blue (cop fanciers) to light green (hustlers) to black (heavy BDSM), and Hanky Code is a compendium of 15 shorts, each of which explores a different hue, via narration, animation or outright erotica. As for this film itself, it's flagging orange, for "anything goes." Wednesday, June 17 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St., 415-902-2071 or

In getting all this together, QCC works with artists for months, shepherding them through the grant application thicket and the creative process alike. As a cultural center and not a community center, it lacks a building. And as a nonprofit, it takes a lot of dedication to nurture the next generations of artistis.

"We meet with them off and on throughout the whole year, help them score a venue at a price they normally wouldn't be able to afford, their insurance, liquor license, technical fees and technicians." Peniston said. "I'd say it's utopian, but it's really hard work."


About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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