Queer Arts Council of New Bedford is ready to be even 'more out there' in 2023

NEW BEDFORD — The logo for the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford is a whale integrated with a Pride rainbow symbolizing the council’s inclusive goals in the art community.

“We’re trying to instill a sense of pride in our community. Let artists know that New Bedford is a safe place to be queer,” said Mandy Fraser, co-founder of the group that was founded in 2019.

Under the umbrella of the SouthCoast LGBTQ+ Network, Fraser said the council is geared to be more about creating opportunities, networking and economic support for queer artists.

“I don't know how to say we keep it weirder. We’re a little more out there,” she said with a laugh.

A performer at June's Pride block party hosted by the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford and Aha! New Bedford.
A performer at June's Pride block party hosted by the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford and Aha! New Bedford.

Fraser, who also sits on the SouthCoast LGBTQ+ Network board, said the group was formed in May 2019, after she  was approached by AHA! New Bedford to help plan a block party for their June Pride theme.

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The event featured queer performers including musicians, drag artists, stilt walkers, hip hop dancers and more. The event, despite being in the rain, had at least 400 people in attendance.

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“We want to create a space that maybe was lacking before,” Fraser said. “Of course, we support everyone and all artists, this is just a specific space for queer artists to be able to share their work.”

Queer Arts Council's networking events

As a 2002 graduate of UMass Dartmouth with a bachelor of fine arts in illustration and painting, Fraser also identifies herself as a queer artist. She works professionally as an illustrator, graphic designer as well as a hand-letting sign artist.

Recently, she worked on the “Love Letters to New Bedford” project painting large whales fabricated with words pertaining to the city written in the style of graffiti.

Mandy Fraser works on the "Love Letters to New Bedford" campaign in this Standard-Times file photo. Behind her is one of her Secret Whales art pieces that incorporates words people submitted to her describing why they love the city.
Mandy Fraser works on the "Love Letters to New Bedford" campaign in this Standard-Times file photo. Behind her is one of her Secret Whales art pieces that incorporates words people submitted to her describing why they love the city.

Fraser is also chair of the AHA! Pride Committee, 3rdEyE Youth Empowerment’s visual arts coordinator and part of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Rotch-Jones-Duff House in New Bedford.

The Queer Arts Council of New Bedford board includes other queer artists including Colleen MacRamos, a photographer; Jeffrey Morin, a fashion designer; Aneshia Savino, a historian; Andy Anello, a DJ; and Liya Hoshi, a graphic designer who created the rainbow whale logo.

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Since launching the queer arts council in 2019, the goal was to at least host a monthly event. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, they spent the past two years hosting virtual social hours on Zoom including a virtual art show in which the camera would move through a real art gallery.

“We’re now finally getting back out there,” Fraser said.

The official logo for the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford.
The official logo for the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford.

Creating their own directory of artists

Using the hashtag "RainbowIsTheNewBeige," the council hopes to offer more events that show off the city’s queer artists.

Offering free tables to vendors at pop-up events and block parties, they hope to create similar resources such as what BuyBlackNB is doing with their directory which highlights Black businesses and artists.

From December to February, the council will be hosting a monthly astronomy night from 6 to 8 p.m. at Fort Tabor with the first event starting Dec. 28 followed by Jan. 11 and Feb. 8. The lights will be turned off and a telescope will be provided for maximum stargazing. Laura Ryan, a local astronomer, who is also a board member, will be in attendance to answer questions.

June's Pride block party hosted by the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford and Aha! New Bedford.
June's Pride block party hosted by the Queer Arts Council of New Bedford and Aha! New Bedford.

The group is planning a queer clothing exchange at the Unitarian Church for March and then they will be having another block party during Pride month in June.

“We're certainly more connected to the community than we were three years ago. We’re getting there,” Fraser said. “I think we’re scratching the surface. I think people are starting to know the logo more.

“I think we can really only go up from here.”

Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at schitwood@s-t.com. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports.Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: Queer Arts Council of New Bedford plans astronomy night in 2023