For over 25 years, Fairy Tales Queer Art and Film Festival gives platform to queer artists to share their work

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The Grand theatre on Thursday June 27, 2024.

The Fairy Tales Queer Art and Film Festival, hosted by the Calgary Queer Arts Society, is back for another year filled with art, jewellers, movies and DJ’s. 

The festival will run from Thursday, June 27 until Sunday, June 30 at The Grand theatre. Previously known as the Fairy Tales Film Festival, it started in 1999 as a platform for queer storytellers to share their stories to other people who did not feel represented in cinema. Over time, this festival expanded and eventually became what is now known today as the Calgary Queer Arts Society. 

This will be the first year the festival will include visual art as part of its programming focus. Although art has been presented as part of the festival in previous years, 2024’s Fairy Tales will showcase more unique pieces of visual arts at The Grand.

The Queer Arts Exhibition and Market on Thursday June 28, 2024.

Shone Thistle, executive director of Calgary Queer Arts Society, says they felt it was important to highlight other forms of art by the 2SLGBTQIA+ community into the festival this year. 

“Folding in other forms of art into the film festival allows us to amplify those artist voices, their talents, and to connect them to each other, so that they know that there’s a network of other artists doing amazing work in the city that they are a part of,” Thistle says. 

Alex Cookshaw, a longtime volunteer with the Calgary Queer Arts Society, has been attending the festival since he was 16 years old. He found out about the festival through a queer youth group, where he met a former executive director of the festival. Excited at the prospect of watching the movies for free through volunteering, Cookshaw signed up to help out.

In addition to Cookshaw’s volunteering at Calgary Queer Arts Society, a love for filmmaking prompted him to study film and video production at SAIT. 

“You know, I sure watched a lot of movies in my formative years where the gays fall in love, they get together, and then somebody dies,” he explains. 

He continues, “It’s no wonder that young queer people oftentimes have difficulty imagining themselves living past 20, making it into adulthood, and that happy, thriving adulthood is they don’t have that blueprint in their mind at all. You know, whereas with kids who are not queer, they grow up, they see people around them, family, parents, all kinds of love stories and fairy tales that queer people don’t get to see.”

Cookshaw volunteers at Fairy Tales year after year largely in part to the community of film enthusiasts it attracts and the programming vision of the festival.

“You have to either imagine it for yourself, or if you go out in the world and search and search until you find that, until you can believe in it enough to create that for yourself. And that’s so important,” he says. 

In addition to the different films playing every day at The Grand, festival attendees are able to experience the Queer Arts Exhibition and Market at the lobby. 

Queer Arts Exhibition and Market on Thursday June 27, 2024.

Jenevieve Nowakowski is a first-time vendor at this year’s Queer Arts Exhibition and Market. She’s the owner of Chicken Foot Creations, a local arts producer that’s been open for a year.

“To be a part of it, it’s exciting. I’d never even been in The Grand or even knew that they had movies or anything. It’s really exciting to be a part of it and the film festival. It’s fun,” she says. 

Reflecting on the excitement also shared by Nowakowski, Calgary Queer Arts Society’s executive director, Shone Thistle, shares their excitement about this year’s Fairy Tales Queer Art and Film Festival as the organization continues to expand its outreach. 

“I’m honestly so grateful to be in a position to get to do this for a living. How many people get to say, ‘I’m helping steward an organization that’s 26 years old that is all about creativity and connection for queer community?’ There’s nothing better than that,” Thistle says.