'There's a place for that': OUTSider Fest returns to the VORTEX
When OUTSider Fest – the long-running LGBTQ+ transmedia festival – returns to the VORTEX this week, it’ll be under the direction of a new leadership team. Josh Tadeo, who’s been involved with the festival for several years, is now the artistic director of OUTSider. He says that, as he planned this year’s fest, the only pressure he’s felt has come from himself.
“Internally there was some pressure, right? [Not from] the board or Curran [Nault, the festival’s founder],” Tadeo says. “Surprisingly, everyone just let me do my own thing. They trusted me that much! But, yeah, internally there was a pressure to kind of really change and, you know, leave my mark. But I feel like the reason I fell in love with OUTSider as a student was because of this queer mischief and intimacy that we create with not only audience members but the artists as well. So [I’m] definitely upholding the core values.”
Tadeo says that one difference audience member might notice is a bit of generational shift. “I’m a bit younger than everyone else,” he says, adding with a laugh, “but not that young.”
“I was going to say, I think we’re like the same age, so calm down,” says new board president Sarah Schoonhoven.
“But a new lens, right?” Tadeo continues. “We’re trying to get new generations to OUTSider. We have our avid viewers and audience members, and I just want to grow the festival and audience members.”
Schoonhoven agrees, saying “And kind of cultivate within our generation and the generation younger than us – because they’re adults now, which is freaky – that there’s a presence of, like you said, this queer culture of mischief. And… sort of diverging from a lot of mainstream narratives of what queer art looks like, and showing younger folks too that there’s a place for that. And a really cool place, and a really fun place.”
OUTsider Fest 2020 took place just a couple of weeks before the Covid lockdowns started; 2021’s festival was virtual; and last year’s was a hybrid fest. This year, Tadeo's looking forward to the sort of in-person gathering that happened in the before times. “I’m just ready to go through the whirlwind of emotions and queer art,” he says. “And I’m so excited to see the artists because it’s a bit of a disconnect as a creative director when you’re programming and you get these submissions from the artists… and talking to them through only emails [and] sometimes phone calls. I’m excited to see them in person, to interact with them.”
Schoonhoven says she’s looking forward to seeing everyone in person but also happy to continue incorporating some of the lessons learned during the online-only and hybrid years. “Last year we livestreamed almost all of our showcases,” she says. “And we had a lot of online badge holders who only viewed the showcases from their own computers. And that’s something that we’ve been able to carry over for this year as well, so that way for the folks… who don’t have the ability to come in person – whether that’s because they’re in another state or country or because they don’t want to be in a large space – they can still tune in. And I love that we’ve been able to keep that. And also, I’m so excited to just see people. Lots of them, and all of the people that really built this community and have been building it for so long. And get to kind of be in a room with them again just feels magical.”