The Out-Front Festival is a cross-disciplinary movement festival curated by the Pioneers Go East Collective and presented in partnership with The LGBT Community Center from January 12th through the 19th. The Festival features the movement-based work of artists highlighting the voices of LGBTQ and feminist artists. Pioneers Go East Collective is an award-winning ensemble of artists and activists in residence at La MaMa and Judson Church. The collective engages with more than 1850 audiences each year, utilizing performance, film, curated series and educational programs to affect social change. They have developed 12 original works, 11 curated series, and collaborated with over 450 art-makers, using storytelling and interview-based documentary to expose the realities of queer identity.
“As a longtime lead curator with Pioneers Go East Collective, I feel that artist-driven arts and cultural organizations like ours must step up and advocate for LGBTQ and BIPOC artists at this time.” Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte, the Artistic Director of Pioneers Go East Collective, told Forbes. “After the pandemic, we noticed a need in our community to present and represent emerging artists to broader audiences to shape meaningful dialogues around social advocacy and personal reflections in safe spaces. With Out-FRONT! Fest., we nurture and empower the careers and artistic practices of a multigenerational community of downtown artists. This exciting festival brings together artists and communities. Furthermore, by presenting interdisciplinary artists, dance-makers, and filmmakers during the Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference in NYC, we provide much-needed network opportunities with producers and in-depth structural support systems to share these vital Queer voices.”
The LGBT Community Center was started in 1983 as a result of the AIDS crisis. Since then, it has made major strides in fostering community connection and currently operates both in-person and virtually. The Center offers advocacy, health and wellness programs, youth programs, recovery programs, family support, entertainment and cultural events.
“I have been a Queer Chicano artist in New York City for 20 years, and I still wrestle with being a struggling artist today.” Philip Treviño, Curator and Designer at Pioneers Go East Collective, told Forbes. “Only when I have received financial support and backing, have I found myself flourishing in my artistic career. I’m grateful for Pioneers Go East Collective, Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte, and Hilary Brown-Istrefi, for sharing our commitment to nurture our fellow artists and provide advocacy where it is desperately needed; to empower the careers and artistic practices of a multigenerational community of downtown artists.”
The Festival features performances by Jasmine Hearn, ALEXA GRÆ, Symara Johnson, Anabella Lenzu, Pioneers Go East Collective and Arien Wilkerson/Tnmot Artro. It also features films by Yasmeen Enahora, Lindy Fines and Greyzone, Angela Schöpke Gonzalez, Cara Hagan, and Zach Rothman-Hicks. It will take place at The LGBT Community Center on 13th Street in Manhattan. All events connected to the Festival are free, with donations accepted. Reservations are required and can be made here.
“It is an enriching and exciting experience to be a part of Pioneers Collective’s Curatorial Team for the 2023 Out-FRONT! Fest., in partnership with The Center.” Hillary Brown-Istrefi, a Curator and Artist-in-Residence at the Pioneers Go East Collective told Forbes. “This performance program furthers our organizational mission of creating opportunities for audiences to engage with the work of a growing and eclectic cohort of New York City-based artists.”
A full schedule of the performance line-up can be found below:
Out-FRONT! Fest. 2023 Schedule
The Kitchen Sink Wrangler at the Midnight Rodeo
Thursday, January 12 and Friday, January 13, at 8pm
The Kitchen Sink Wrangler at the Midnight Rodeo is an exploration into the artist’s American and West Indian heritage. Formally trained in Caribbean dance techniques in Trinidad, Symara Johnson combines the methodologies of folk and modern dance to explore her family history within the United States, of which there is a limited archive. Johnson uses family lore and American cultural fantasy to create and project a persona that embodies and is in conversation with her lineage in the Wild West and the Deep South. In the piece, the rope becomes both a prop and partner as Johnson embodies her cowgirl persona. She uses the rope as a boundary, holding it taut and creating shapes for her body to deftly navigate. She surveils the land around her, responding to her surroundings with playful curiosity. When she begins to lasso, the rope transforms into a mesmerizing and dynamic sculptural accompaniment.
Pioneers Go East Collective
A durational performance installation
Friday, January 13 and Saturday, January 14, 6–8pm
Audience members may come and go during the hours of the performance installation.
Electric Blue is a dance-theater installation inspired by radical queer thought-provoking literary icon Allen Ginsberg. A meditation on creative agency and censorship, Electric Blue celebrates past and present LGBTQ resilience in pursuit of artistic freedom. The artists deploy personal reflections to underscore how the experiences of the individual, the artist, and their community are inevitably bound together, hinting at the potential for collective action. Taking Ginsberg’s writing defined as pornographic literature when first published, the collective examines the author’s controversial poetry reflecting on same-sex love and male bonding. Integrating artistic disciplines, the project is devised in collaboration with three solo performing artists: singer/dancer ALEXA GRÆ, dancer/storyteller Joey Kipp, and performance artist/storyteller Daniel Diaz. The installation and concept are by creative director Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte, choreographer Symara Johnson, visual artist Mark Tambella, and designer Philip Treviño.
Arien Wilkerson/Tnmot Aztro
835 Hours of Hope & Despair
Saturday, January 14 at 8pm and Sunday, January 15 at 5.30pm
Philadelphia-based artist Arien Wilkerson presents 835 Hours of Hope & Despair, a multidisciplinary work reflecting on gender, labor, queerness, and the geographic boundaries that have affected creative paths for young queer Black artists. Wilkerson uses critical analysis and comedic “transposition persona” to shape dance celebrating Black, radical, “poz” trans, and nonbinary traditions to entertain, share joy, and explore self-awareness. 835 Hours of Hope & Despair features Arien Wilkerson and Chloe Newton with live sound accompaniment by Kwami Winfield. Cultural historian/dramaturge: TK Smith. Written by Wilkerson comprising text by Cedric J. Robinson, Hortense J. Spillers, Eduardo Cadava, Aaron Levy, Saidiya Hartman, Adrian Piper, and Uta Hagen. Tech and installation design by Wilkerson and Jacob Weinberg.
Salt and Spirit
Tuesday, January 17 at 7pm and Thursday, January 19 at 8pm
Salt and Spirit is a new work by Jasmine Hearn in collaboration with performers Dominica Greene, Kendra Portier, Marýa Wethers, and Charmaine Warren, and with creative support from Nora Alami and Myssi Robinson. The piece includes a dance of many myths and a song for stilling as it continues the nonlinear stories of N I L E and Trinity. Original sound by Hearn in collaboration with Lily Gelfand and Angie Pittman, with additional design by Athena Kokoronis of DPA, Salt and Spirit is a layering of remembered recipes, unkempt stories, and forgotten adornments.
COLLUSIONS OF GRANDEUR – transfiguration
Tuesday, January 17 and Wednesday, January 18 at 8pm
COLLUSIONS OF GRANDEUR – transfiguration, by interdisciplinary artist and composer ALEXA GRÆ, is a surrealist multimedia opera engaging stories manifested through body evolutions. It is a place where messages of trans and queer identity, spiritual downloads, ADHD, Blackness, and magic interact. A rediscovery of personal power adjacent to movement by way of running. Where internal truths collide with external myths and reverberate with the body as the messenger. Negotiating the singular and collective rage, the work opens up Afrofuturistic visions, justice strategies, and fantastical thoughts tethered by escapism to self-regulate. Vocalized joy poems bend genres and arias of longing evoke a grand opera thrust into the multiverse.
Listen to your Mother
Wednesday, January 18 and Thursday, January 19 at 7pm
Choreographed and performed by Anabella Lenzu, Listen to your Mother is redefining the place of mothers, artists, and immigrants in the United States. The work is part of a research/choreographic art project by Lenzu to capture histories, testimonials, and experiences of mothers who are also immigrants and artists living and working in New York City to create dialogue, appreciation, and social support. Music landscape, technology advising, and multimedia by Todd Carroll. Creative collaborator: Fernando Santiago. Mask design and makeup by Lenzu.
Daylong Film Screening
Thursday, January 19, 12–6pm
Forbidden by Yasmeen Enahora
RIFT by Lindy Fines and Greyzone
Cygnus by Cara Hagan
40 Gestures to Remind You, You’re Still Here by Cara Hagan
Sandia by Angela Schöpke Gonzalez in collaboration with Mario Vircha
Digital Intimacy by Zach Rothman-Hicks
NEXT! Engagement Workshops
NEXT! Workshops are a creative engagement program by Pioneers Go East Collective. Designed for multigenerational participants, these creative workshops focus on performance and storytelling techniques, including movement practices, creative writing, and interview-based acting. The goal is to create a nurturing learning environment and build stronger bonds within the participants’ communities.
NEXT! Workshop with Arien Wilkerson
Friday, January 13, at 6pm
NEXT! Workshop with Jasmine Hearn
Wednesday, January 18 at 6pm
Interview quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.