There's no better place to be than San Francisco in June if you're gay, proud, and artistically inclined. In addition to the annual parade (June 23) and the usual shenanigans that go along with it, Gay Pride Month boasts the National Queer Arts Festival, a five-week series of artistic activities created by and for gays, lesbians, and all the folks in between.
Kicking off June 1, the celebration spans music, theater, dance, visual arts, literature, and comedy. Brought to us by the usual suspects -- the Queer Cultural Center and the Harvey Milk Institute -- this fourth annual fest is a multicultural showcase of both Bay Area talent and artists from around the world, as well as a bona fide tourist attraction. "Our events are things that won't happen anywhere else," asserts Kevin Schaub, the festival coordinator and executive director of the Harvey Milk Institute. "We [provide] the opportunity to do things that traditional theater settings don't always permit."
Though Terrence McNally's theater talk has been postponed until November, there's still more than enough on offer, including author Alice Walker, comedian Marga Gomez, porn star Annie Sprinkle, and the S.F. Lesbian and Gay Dance Festival. Several visual arts programs paint a diverse portrait of the queer community. In addition to "QueLACo," a display that discusses the history of Latino gays, acclaimed photographer Laurie Toby Edison will show images from her groundbreaking books, Familiar Men: A Book of Male Nudes and Women En Large: Images of Fat Nudes. In another timely event, one that evokes the debate surrounding the redesign of Harvey Milk Plaza, Chris Reed, associate professor of art history at Lake Forest College in Illinois, will discuss the erection of one part of Chicago's "street furniture" plan -- 22 20-foot rainbow-ringed pylons -- designed to honor its historic gay neighborhood, Boys Town.
Visit www.queerculturalcenter.org for a full schedule
The first weekend's activities alone are impressive. The Opening Night Gala features readings by renowned authors Walker, Dorothy Allison, and Jewelle Gomez on Friday, June 1, at 8 p.m. at the Women's Building, 3543 18th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $25-50 on a sliding scale. On Saturday, June 2, animation maestro Barry Purves demonstrates what he's learned working on everything from Rice-A-Roni ads to Hollywood films like Mars Attacks!, screening "Plays of Passion/Passion Plays," five short films, at 7 p.m. at the Women's Building. Admission is $15. At 9 p.m. in the same location Sister Spit celebrates the release of its latest album, Greatest Spits, a collection of the group's spoken-word highlights from the past six years. Admission is $7-10 on a sliding scale. The next night you can have "Intercourse: A Sex and Gender Spoken Word Recipe for Revolution," an evening of performance that attempts to bridge the gap between the various gay communities, at 7 p.m. at SomArts, 934 Brannan (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $5-50 on a sliding scale.