Photo | Grace King

An overview of Toronto’s inaugural Bi Arts Festival

The first annual Toronto Bi Arts Festival took place from September 22nd to 24th, 2017. The festival’s vision is stated as the creation of “an annual Bisexual Arts Festival that celebrates bisexual visibility, culture, and history.” Planned to coincide with the nationwide bisexual visibility week that began on September 22nd, the festival featured a wide variety of events over three days, providing platforms to promote art by bi, pan, and fluid artists, as well as spaces to discuss the experiences of bi+ people.

The festival started Friday, with D-Beatstro hosting a pop-up market of art by local bi, queer, pan, and fluid identifying people, as well as the launch of the festival’s zine, CRUSH. Edited by Kat Pruss, CRUSH was available for sale throughout the festival and features work by a wide range of bi+ artists. It can still be purchased at D-Beatstro and a variety of bookstores across the city. The pop-up market featured everything from candles to queer- and sex-positive accessories. There was a heavy focus on feminism, positivity, and intersectionality by many of the diverse artists.

Glad Day Bookshop hosted an art gallery, which lasted the entire weekend, and a bisexual writing showcase on Saturday. Saturday night was Smashes, a queer comedy act. Finally, Sunday featured a Wikipedia edit-a-thon at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) and a short screening of independent, experimental, and bisexual films at the Tranzac Club.

Perhaps almost as notable as the broad range of events was the way the festival successfully utilized many spaces across the city. Working with Glad Day Bookshop, the CLGA and D-Beatstro—all spaces focused on the experiences of marginalized groups—integrated the festival into an already flourishing community of local artists who are more likely than the general population to be engaged in an arts festival focused on bisexual visibility. Continuing to build relationships with spaces that hold similar missions to the festival will be advantageous for continued success.

Having been able to attend “Incite: A Celebration of Contemporary Bisexual Writing” on Saturday afternoon, I was impressed with both the quality of the writing presented and the diverse audience that came to the event. Jon Pressick, a “sex radio host, video content producer, burlesque performer, erotica writer, and event producer,” emceed the event, including his own anecdotes on bisexual experience between readings.

Notable performances from “Incite” include an excerpt of a sex scene from Karen Connelly’s new book, The Change Room, Kamila Rina’s work within the glosa poetic structure, and Kate Mildew’s short, sweet poems on being a nurse and being in love, among other topics. There was broad and diverse representation from bisexual identities that intersect with other marginalizations, such as being a person of colour, genderfluid, autistic, and a woman. To see such a diverse collection of experiences, identities, and presentation styles was refreshing.

At “Incite,” founders, Catherine Jones and Stephen Harvey stated their passion and motivation for continuing the festival in future years. The possibility for widespread success is exciting in many ways—for further development of an already incredible event, and for creating space to highlight the work of marginalized groups in Toronto.