Image: Canberra drag performer MadB will be performing as part of TAC’s Refract project in April 2021. Photo: Mick Tait.

Tuggeranong Arts Centre is currently supporting the creative development of three new works celebrating the contemporary Queer* experience. The works, which are supported by an ACT Government Capital of Equality grant, are being developed by Queer* First Nations, Bla(c)k and People of Colour, and transgender and gender diverse artists and communities. All three works will premiere as part of TAC’s Refract program from 9 April to 5 June 2021, which aims to celebrate the breadth and complexity of contemporary Queer* experience in Canberra and throughout Australia.

One of the new works, which commenced development in September, is an original performance by a cast of 11 transgender and gender diverse vocalists. Working with facilitator Kat Reed, vocal coach Dianna Nixon, and TAC staff, the cast will spend 7 months devising and developing the performance. The project, which builds on the success of Trans Voices Cabaret in 2019, recognises that voices and bodies are intimately tied to the experience of gender and expression and will showcase local queer talent while offering performers vocal coaching and artistic development opportunities.

Meanwhile, in collaboration with DEiFY, TAC is also developing a new exhibition titled Deqolonise. Deqolonise will challenge how the colonial imagination has erased, criminalised and othered queer bodies of colour. Curated by Ono Chowdhury, a person of Bangladeshi heritage and trans experience, they aim to harness the collective stories of queer Bla(c)k and brown artists from Australia. Deqolonise is a reclamation and a contemporary archive of our and our ancestors’ experiences and dreams – a celebration of survival and resilience against past and continuing colonial violence. This exhibition will unearth the shared histories of queer individuals from across First Nations, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pasifika and African communities residing in so-called Australia.

The final project under development is After, a collaboration with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQI Network. After explores the intersections of culture, gender, and sexuality, and the ongoing racism, homophobia, and transphobia faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQA+ performers. Through a performance, forum, and exhibition of new commissioned works, the project asks, what happens after the curtain closes, the lights go down, and the make-up comes off? Is visibility enough, or is there more work to be done?

All three works have emerged from TAC’s ongoing relationship with LGBTIQA+ communities in Canberra and the networks established through the Centre’s TuggersPRIDE program in 2019. The creative developments respond to an identified need for opportunities for Canberra-based queer artists and creatives to develop work and gain artistic experience. TAC hopes that audiences will support the outcomes of these developments when they are presented next year and embrace their exploration of the breadth of experiences within the LGBTIQA+ community.