The Winnipeg Arts Council’s WITH ART program partners professional artists with community groups to work on community identity, issues, and shared goals through the development of an art project. In the case of the Rainbow Resource Centre, the participants were young people who identify as queer or transgender, and some are in transition from one gender to another. The participants wanted to use the WITH ART project to talk about forming their identities while negotiating, pushing and breaking perceived norms of gender and sexuality as set by society, peers, family, school, and workplace.
After a year of the community and artist working together, the result is Queer Perspectives, an exhibition and book consisting of several artworks by and about the participants from the Rainbow Resource Centre. While artist Lisa Wood was creating portraits of the youth, the youth were creating self-portraits. The combined work is a striking exhibition, giving face to this part of the queer community while also exploring personal struggle and inner strength. The book, which launched at the opening of the exhibition, also has moving and eloquent passages written by the young artists addressing their day-to-day lives and the larger questions of identity that they all face.
Artist Lisa Wood said that she herself found the experience of working with these youth profound. “Each participant is rapidly transforming, whether the change is as monumental as altering gender, or as subtle as adapting ideas, perceptions, or opinions,” said Wood. “Life is in constant flux and it can be amazing and devastating in a single day.”