Proud Voices Austin Is Queering Hearing for All of Pride Month
Interactive audio fest amplifies LGBTQIA artists and businesses
By James Scott,
1:30PM, Fri. Jun. 4, 2021
Throughout the “pandeuxmoi,” festivals have transformed in all manner of innovative means. As always, Austin’s queer community is keeping it cutting edge, with this month’s Proud Voices interactive audio festival giving folks a new way to celebrate queer art and engagement.
Running the entire month of June, Proud Voices is, in fact, a multi-city festival taking place simultaneously in Brooklyn; Auckland, New Zealand; and Austin. Each city’s respective fest revolves around eight stops at queer-owned (or queer-friendly) small businesses where fest-goers can scan an exclusive QR code to stream a song, poem, or auditory piece from a local queer artist. There will also be transcriptions of every audio piece available online for deaf and hard-of-hearing folks.
Proud Voices Austin creates a unique – and intentionally COVID-cautious – experience for folks to celebrate Pride Month, says Emmet Hunker of Thee Gay Agenda, who along with ATX Interfaces and Embrace Austin worked to create Austin’s festival. “We're taking a whole month to let people [listen] at their own pace so that there's not massive congregation.” Giving fest-goers a more freeform option to engage with the works of local queer artists makes the event more intimate, too. In a more traditional festival atmosphere, explains Hunker, it’s inevitable that some of the audience might miss an artist’s one-and-one-time-only set, and that the audience’s reaction isn’t always predictable – sometimes for the worst, if their heckling or antics get out of control.
With Proud Voices Austin’s one-artist-per-stop format, “the focus is on that artist alone,” says Hunker. Plus, the fest’s monthlong schedule gives participants plenty of time to explore each stop at their own pace.
“In this time, when we have countless things at our fingertips to discover new artists, we’re still often trapped in absorbing what either algorithms or forces outside of our power decide we should be absorbing,” says Hunker. Proud Voices Austin instead represents “a whole lot of queer brains [getting together] to celebrate a handful of awesome artists at each one of these stops.”
Curating the festival’s artists and businesses originated from a desire to amplify and celebrate Austin’s diversity of queerness, explains Hunker. Organizers sought artists from a variety of art mediums, identities, and ages. “We all kind of explored our different pockets of networks of artists, and decided collaboratively who really hit these different faces in terms of having a showcase that we thought represented queer Austin in a really cool way,” says Hunker. Artists include Mama Duke, Quentin Arispe, Irielle Wesley, Dylan Garsee, Carrie Fussell, Tosin Awofeso, Andie Flores, and Jazz Bell.
“We also wanted to make sure that businesses are accessible by public transportation,” adds Hunker, “and that they really did meet, match, and amplify the ethos of queer empowerment.” Highlighting non-white and queer-owned businesses was a priority for Proud Voices Austin, as organizers sought diversity in both the owners’ identities as well as their enterprises. The eight brick-and-mortars – either LGBTQIA-owned or queer-friendly – include Cheer Up Charlies, BookWoman, The Little Gay Shop, Garden Seventeen, Fallout Theater, Earth Commons, Frontyard Gardens, and Cute Nail Studio. Together, they represent all the “different parts of how we congregate as queers – or how we did before the pandemic.”
Proud Voices Austin runs through June 30th. Tickets are $5 per city or $10 for a multi-city pass (in order to ensure that no one is turned away for lack of ability to pay, use code “PROUD” at checkout for a discounted ticket). Purchase tickets, stream the audio pieces online, and find more info at proudvoices.gay.
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LGBTQ, Proud Voices, Proud Voices Austin, Emmet Hunker, Thee Gay Agenda, ATX Interfaces, Embrace Austin, Mama Duke, Quentin Arispe, Irielle Wesley, Dylan Garsee, Carrie Fussell, Tosin Awofeso, Andie Flores, Jazz Bell, Cheer Up Charlies, The Little Gay Shop, BookWoman, Garden Seventeen, Cute Nail Studio