The Queer Imaging & Riting Kollective for Elders (Quirk-e)
One of the three founding groups in Arts & Health, the members of Quirk-e have worked together for the last ten years to produce an electric and eclectic mix of artistic productions that have included theatre, imagery, digital storytelling, spoken word and writing. Currently the group runs on its own, with group leaders and members successfully applying for funding to continue.
For the last two years, the Quirk-es have been collaborating with Youth For a Change – queer youth advocates from Surrey. Over last summer, they produced a series of fact sheets and videos about elder abuse in the LGBTQA community – a much-underreported issue. These were written, filmed, edited and produced by elders and youth in the two projects. Thanks to a grant from the BC Council to Reduce Elder Abuse, these materials were disseminated across BC’s five health regions. Both elders and youth were on hand to answer questions about the issue and about the arts project.
Currently, youth and elders are working on a book under contract from Peter Lang, an international publisher. Called Basically Queer, the book will provide information and stories and graphics about what it’s like to be young, old, and queer. Hopefully, it will be of use to doctors, parents, students, teachers and others working with youth and elders.
An unruly and discordant choir, the members of Quirk-e are on a mission to change common stereotypes about what it’s like to be old and queer. Visit their website at: https://planetquirke.com/
If you are interested in participating in this group, please contact Anne Cowan.
Britannia Community Centre
661 Napier Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 4X4
2006 - 2013
"I believe that as we recall and reconsider our stories, we recall and re-consider ourselves, the world, and our place in it."
"Even though I have health problems, my energy level is high because of this writing opportunity. I’m also fulfilling a lifetime goal – writing my memoirs which would have been otherwise impossible."
"This project is my only activity and it offers me a safe, encouraging, stimulating, and affirming place to be. My low-grade chronic depression is much better through sharing with others who have seen and been through lots. I see older role models here."
"We know that we have support at Quirk-e. It is a place where we can be both Queer and Senior. It is a place where we understand each other at a deep level and through our writing we can share the joys and hurts of our past, along with our fears and hopes for the future."
Currently, Quirk-e is considering the business of remembering and forgetting. Part of our ability to remember comes from being situated in a relationship; memory loss serves to perpetuate the isolation that already exists. Can a writing collective help people maintain memory through retrieval and reinforcement? Can it reduce stigma through non-judgmental discussion? In particular, can a queer collective serve to reduce the stigma of memory loss by bringing forgetting out of the closet and to the table? Can making art serve to help us remember and forget? The members of Quirk-e have each constructed Memory Boxes – three dimensional conceptual installations that investigate these questions. Quirk-e also ran a three hour writing workshop for queer youth and youth workers at the C.A.L.L. OUT Conference conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health.
Thus far, Quirk-e (QUeer Imaging & Riting Kollective for Elders) has produced anthologies every year. Last year, under the creative direction of intern Kelsey Blair, an anthology was produced that included graphic storybook or comic strip illustrations. The goal was to provide context and tell stories about being queer through the 20th and on into the 21st century. The anthology takes us from electric shock and institutionalization in the 40’s and 50’s to personal and creative expression today. The anthology proposal, currently under review by Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, is titled The Bridge Generation.
A working method adapted from Davis and Gannon (2006) in which five groups produced group biographies without individual authorship, served as a conceptual framework for collective biographies. Works produced included a play, a power point presentation, a spoken word performance, and an imovie.
The Human Library Project was performed at the Vancouver Public Library as part of the official international human library project. Members of the collective served as living books and were taken-out to be borrowed by readers. Each “book” had a cover/book jacket. Readers browsed through a catalogue, chose a “book,” and had a face to face intimate conversation. One of the main goals of the project was to bring to light the importance of face to face communication. Lead artist Claire Robson was interviewed by a video team from SFU. The interview was later broadcast on CBC television.
From 2009-2010 a documentary film creation explored sexuality, health, and aging. A film by Callista Haggis as part of her Masters project at UBC Quirk-e – A learning Collective featuring learning and loving through a collective context won the Hot Pink Shorts Award at the Queer Film Festival. All Quirk-e members attended the debut screening.
Videos created from participant-provided stills for the Quirk-e Project YouTube channel include:
The group also published an anthology of stories called Wrinkles.
Quirk-e seniors have had long and interesting lives and thus many stories to tell; they are funny, difficult, wise, and silly in more emphatic ways than young LGBTTQ. During 2008/2009, Quirk-e produced a live theatrical review at the Britannia High School Auditorium that included original spoken word, choral presentation, and dance. These works spoke to the very human struggle for identity in a repressive society. The commitment and effort by the seniors and artists to complete and present their work is huge. The stories published that year in the anthology “Outspoken” are necessary to help society understand its own narrative and contextualization of queer counter-culture.
A community engaged arts practice inspires its members to create community around common goals and to generate new public through expression and representation. To this end, Quirk-e produced digitally designed artwork using Adobe photoshop. The images were professionally framed and appeared in a juried show at Vancouver Public Library called Moat Gallery in conjunction with a public reading. Quirk-e also published the anthology Transformations to increase awareness and discourse of personal, political, and cultural structures and identities.
Quirk-e’s pilot year at Britannia Center developed from an existing writers’ group that was affiliated with Q-mmunity Center and was organized to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community. The group first focused on writing and then expanded to include digital photography, video, theater production and performance. The group was led by professional writer Claire Robson and was incorporated into the Arts, Health, and Seniors Project. Together, they identify themselves as the QUeer Imaging and wRiting Kollective of Elders, or Quirk-e.