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What does it mean to create a space for learning where queer and trans artists can thrive?

For so many reasons, this is a complex question, one which touches on systemic barriers and hyperspecific contexts both at once. Yet three years ago, a group of faculty and students at Toronto’s OCADU decided it was about time to start working together to answer it, and better yet to produce some real tools instructors could use to support their students. Now, Queer Publishing Project is officially launching HANDBOOK: Supporting Queer and Trans Students in Art and Design in Toronto this Wednesday at Art Metropole. 

“The book came out of conversations that I was having with my students, and that they were having with each other,” said Anthea Black, an instructor who co-edited the book with Shamina Chherawala. Black and Chherawala supported student-led “dream chats” that eventually led to the development of different sections of the book. Then, they worked with faculty to help refine the practical aspects of the book, figuring out how to empower faculty to implement the kind of changes students were talking about. “The whole thing was queer and trans powered,” says Black.

illustration by Morgan Sea, from HANDBOOK

While the content of the book is oriented around formal art instruction, the process and insights behind the book come directly from DIY and activist communities.

“Some of these techniques come from social justice movements and from activist contexts,” explains Black. “The question is more like, how can we make faculty members in an art institution, who might be kind of skeptical of bringing activism into their class, how can we invite them to use some of those methods? Because they actually make people feel comfortable, and build community.”

As the content developed, HANDBOOK was illustrated by Morgan Sea, an OCADU graduate student who is also a long time staple in the Canadian queer zine and comic community. Once the book was ready, OCADU printmaking technician Nick Schick facilitated six months of letter press printing and production with students to put out a handmade edition of 1,200.

Now, it goes into the world and has a life of its own.

“In shared spaces the weight is often put on queer and trans people to educate or speak up when someone is being fucked up,” says Sea. “I am hoping this book can get in there and do some of the heavy lifting.”

HANDBOOK launches this Wednesday from 5pm-7pm at Art Metropole in Toronto. It will be available online from the Art Metropole, Glad Day Bookshop or the ACAD Bookstore

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