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Queer-Scape is the Pride Weekend Kick-Off Baltimore’s Art Scene Needed

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Baltimore’s busy summer “scape” event calendar just got a little more crowded—and queerer. Queer-Scape will kick off Pride weekend tomorrow, Thursday June 22, at Area 405, with a multimedia evening of visual art, drag, burlesque, music, and a maker market with wares from local LGBTQ+ owned businesses. 

The one-day festival begins at 4 PM with an exhibition of queer Baltimore artists, from the uncanny figuration of Lania D’Agostino to Beth Yashnyk´s pop-y, technicolor allusions to the body. Vendors include designer Rich Rocket, with the upcycled clothing line Vintage Thrivals and crafter Meghan Taylor’s The Queerio Cabinet, “here to provide one-of-a-kind home goods your Republican family members will hate.”

Lania D'Agostino
Beth Yashnyk

Starting at 7 PM, Joseph Mulhollen will serenade visitors with his experimental pop project Glorian, followed by drag performances, “A Gay Cantata,” stand-up, and more. After dark, Queer-Scape: Undressed (tickets in link) promises even more mischief, with an evening of burlesque and drag hosted by Stealya Manz and Bebe Doblevei. The ticketed event starts at 9 PM, but Queer-Scape’s other activities are free and open to the public until then. 

The event is the brainchild of Stillpointe Theatre’s founder/Creative Director Ryan Haase and his frequent collaborators Darius McKeiver (better known as Stealya Manz) and Amanda Rife. If you made it down to DC Pride earlier this month and need to wash the sight of rainbow Lockheed Martin banners out of your eyes, Queer-Scape promises to be a perfectly Baltimore visual palate cleanser to inaugurate our festivities. It’s also a great chance to check out how Area 405 has evolved since transferring ownership under a new non-profit model last year.  

I caught up with Ryan and Stealya to get a little preview of what we can look forward to when the curtain rises tomorrow. 

Darius McKeiver (aka Stealya Manz) installing work by Adam David Bencomo
Ryan Haase installing Studio 5's portrait of Stealya Manz

Ok, first off—because apparently I am a philistine—what is a cantata

Stealya: I honestly had to google it myself! Everyone involved submitted a proposal, because we deliberately put out a call for all art forms. This is the magic of having an event that’s multidisciplinary. It gives us a chance to show off to each other,  our individual disciplines, and by doing so we hopefully get to learn something new… like, what’s a cantata!?!

Ryan: A cantata is a vocal composition with accompaniment, written in movements,  with multiple singers. Cool, right?

What else motivated you to put Queer-Scape together? Is this technically a Stillpointe production?

Stealya: The three of us have been friends for 10+ years I think… Ryan and Amanda founded Stillpointe and I have been heavily involved in the company as a guest artist/director/designer. Queer-Scape lives under the umbrella of Stillpointe which is pretty on-point for the company as it has evolved over the years—it’s become an incubator, nurturing artist and special projects. We wanted to create a queer festival that celebrated queer artists and it was important to us to also have it queer funded as well. Queer-Scape  creates the opportunity for connections between local artists, community members and patrons—together, celebrating the richness of our community.  

Ryan: I’m pretty sure I just said “are you free June 22nd?” to both of my collaborators and they both said “yes!” Then from there, we just started dreaming. 

Stealya: The goal was to create and produce a queer-funded and operated arts festival which serves as a safe space for local, queer visual artists, performance artists, and makers to network, perform, and sell their goods to patrons.

Ryan: We also wanted to create a safe space for queer artists to show off their talents free of charge. 

This is not necessarily a Stillpointe production, however this is produced by Stillpointe and the many collaborators have worked with each other in the past. Basically, we wanted to present a night of art, performance and music that wasn’t just for a specific demographic, but something for everyone.  Free programming is key and something that is needed in this city.

 

Stealya Manz, photo by Richard A Bowe Jr

I’m so excited to see this happening at Area405! Could you talk about your relationship with the venue?

Ryan: Oh man. I love this space. Stillpointe has worked with Central Baltimore Partnership and Station North over the past few months to help relaunch this space. Our spring musical “NEVERMORE” was technically the official re-launch of Area 405, opening early April of 2023. 

That said, we have always found inspiration here at Area 405. We staged “Sweeny Todd” in 2013 and “Spring Awakening” here in 2018. We hope to continue to work here in the future. 

Is there any particular artist, vendor, or performer you’re especially excited about seeing tomorrow?

Stealya: Studio 5! they have some amazing photography of performance artists. Studio 5 Is known for capturing Baltimore’s drag scene. I want the whole set myself! 

I’m also so excited for all the burlesque performers. I love that we have both forms of performance closing out the festival. A lot of us are meeting for the first time so it’s going great to make those new connections. 

Ryan: I can’t pick one. They’re all so inspiring and queer as fuck!

Stealya: I’m most excited for our food because I like to eat, and I love BBQ! We have Soul Smoke BBQ, home of Baltimore’s best brisket coming to us. 

 

For the full festival lineup, check out the Facebook event. Tickets are available in advance here. Don’t forget to tip performers! It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.

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