Austin’s OUTsider Festival will celebrate its fifth year this week, but when Curran Nault and the other founders were planning that first fest, they weren’t really thinking about year five.
“It’s such an unusual idea, the festival,” Nault says. “So I think we were just really thinking in the moment that we wanted to create something. And we were hoping that people would like what we created and then we would take it from there. And honestly, that’s how we’ve approached it every year since.”
The response that first year – and every year since – has been positive enough that the organizers never really considered not bringing it back, Nault says.
“We have a retreat every year … and we talk about all sorts of things. How did it go, what’s our plans for the next year,” he says. “It really hasn’t ever been a question of 'Are we going to do it again?' because it always has been so fantastic and [gotten] such a good response that we know.”
OUTsider fest is a celebration of LGBTQ+ art and culture, a place for people who might feel like outsiders and a place for art that doesn’t quite fit into a neat box or label.
“It’s performance art, it’s dance, it’s theater, it’s a lot of transmedia work … a lot of stuff that kind of doesn’t fit a category,” Nault says. “Which is part of this definition of ‘outsider,’ so it’s ‘outsider’ in terms of queer and stuff that’s on the margins, but ... it’s outsider art as well.”
To mark the fifth anniversary of the festival, the city has proclaimed Feb. 21 as OUTsider Day in Austin (the second day of the five-day festival).
“I never, when we started this festival five years ago, thought that’d be a possibility,” Nault says with some amazement in his voice. “And we’re really excited about it. I don’t know how many queer days there are in Austin, or in Texas for sure.”
For Nault, the heart of OUTsider has been and remains the sense of intimacy the festival instills in its participants.
“What’s really been great to me… is that people become really emotional,” he says. “That there’s this kind of attachment to one another, there’s this attachment to the festival. It’s become like a friend or a family member to people, that they’re going to miss until the next year.”