Leather, glitter and moustaches: This annual art fundraiser is all about camp and community

The sixth annual edition of Feminasty will raise money for one of Quebec's oldest feminist-inclusive spaces, La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse.

Feminasty VI will raise money for one of Quebec's oldest feminist-inclusive spaces

The scene at last year's Feminasty. (La Centrale)

If you've been waiting for the right moment to break out your chaps, the time has come. La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, one of Quebec's oldest artist-run centres, is about to host its annual fundraiser, Feminasty VI. The suggested dress code? Leather, glitter and moustaches.

Founded in 1973, La Centrale began as a gallery and gathering space for women artists to exhibit their work and address the challenges of under-representation or exclusion within larger art institutions. But the gallery's mandate has evolved significantly over the years, says current artistic coordinator Véronique Boilard.

"It began as a women for women space," she explains. "This was before artist-run centres existed. There was also a studio space, group workshops, childcare and yoga lessons. It was about helping female artists have access and resources. Men were involved as well. In the 1980s, it got more radical, and men were no longer participating in workshops or group shows."

Boilard explains that by the early 2000s, with feminism evolving to deal more with inclusion, "there was a big discussion with gallery members on how to address these changes."

The poster for this year's Feminasty. (La Centrale)

"We became non-hierarchical, which shifts how we relate to one another," she says. "There's always work to do, but it feels good. It's been ten years since we changed it to a feminist-inclusive space that addresses intersectionality and accessibility. That's something we're always working on and working towards."

La Centrale also fosters intergenerational dialogue by showing work from artists at various stages in their careers. The gallery's programming continues to pull from the history of feminist art practices while creating a space for work that stems from gender theory and intercultural and transdisciplinary practices. This extends beyond the gallery walls, as La Centrale's outreach into the community includes workshops about feminist perspectives on art history and a province-wide workshop series on gender and sexuality.

It's been ten years since we changed it to a feminist-inclusive space that addresses intersectionality and accessibility. That's something we're always working on and working towards.- Véronique Boilard, La Centrale artist coordinator

Boilard notes how Feminasty makes all of this work possible. "The fundraiser party helps us to do our regular programming activities, artist talks, projections, residencies, in addition to our educational programs. It's also a community-building event. In the past we've had Feminasty at different venues in the neighbourhood. But now, like last year, we're hosting it in the gallery so people can come in, get to know us and get to know our community."

Feminasty originated as a dance party, and its inaugural edition took place at the now-defunct Royal Phoenix bar in Mile End. But when the gallery celebrated its 40th anniversary, replete with a feast and procession up Saint Laurent Boulevard, the Feminasty fundraiser started to take on more of a carnival-esque atmosphere, with games, food and costumes.

The scene at last year's Feminasty. (La Centrale)

The party's teaser trailer, which features a visual mash-up of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Al Pacino in the film Cruising, makes it clear that Feminasty's playful spirit and camp aesthetic will return in full force for the deluxe edition of the fundraiser. There will be a happy hour, a lip sync battle between board members, karaoke, a feminist art quiz and fortune grilled-cheese sandwiches. And perhaps most noteworthy is the moustache bar.

"There's going to be a station where people can make their own moustaches," Boilard explains. "Gallery members will be there to help out at the moustache station. There will also be someone who can draw a portrait of you wearing your new moustache."

Between the lip sync battle and the karaoke, a surprise will be revealed. Boilard smiles, "I can't say what it is just yet. Throughout the party there'll be prizes from different partners in the neighbourhood and feminist organizations."

She also points out that during the quiz portion of the night, there will be team leaders from the gallery for anyone who happens to be attending solo. "If people come here alone, they can join a team to be part of the group. We welcome everyone."

Feminasty VI: Deluxe Edition. March 10, La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse, Montreal. www.lacentrale.org

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