Meet Celeste Chan
The out feminist artist on co-founding Queer Rebels Productions and representing queers of color in the arts.
Photo by Amie LeeKing
Feeling there was a strong need for queer artists of color to come out on stage and shine their talent Celeste Chan and KB Boyce founded Queer Rebels Productions based in San Francisco in late 2008. Thier goal: to showcase queer artists of color, connect generations, and honor histories with art for the future. Chan and Boyce delve in to the deeper understanding of art and history and put them together to create incredible projects and shows for the community and beyond to further advocate for LGBT equality.
Before developing their production agency, Chan was studying International Feminism and video production at Evergreen State College. Later, she got involved in community-based work in the Bay Area working with Incite: Women of Color Against Violence (Oakland, Calif), Shifting Narratives Film Collective (San Francisco) and the Femme Conference (National). Boyce on the other hand is a two spirit musician developing a solo act called TuffNStuff: The Lasta Dela Drag. Boyce served on the Trans March steering committee and co produced the Radical Performance Fest. Chan and Boyce both curate and they always scout talent and reach out to queer artists of color. This past year, they ran their first open call for submissions to Exploding Lineage: Queer of Color Experimental Films. Chan tells us how Queer Rebels came be.
What inspired you and KB Boyce to found Queer Rebel Productions?
Queer Rebels emerged from KB Boyce’s performances as TuffNStuff, a cross-dressing musician. We both saw a need to create dedicated space for queer artists of color. As James Baldwin said,“the place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” No one was going to do it for us. We had to do it for ourselves. We approached the Queer Cultural Center, and they let us produce Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance for the National Queer Arts Festival. The result was a standing-room only, enthusiastic evening. We couldn’t leave it at just one event. We honor elder generations, those who paved the way for our creative, sexual, and intellectual freedom today. We want to break down doors for queer artists of color now, to amplify our collective voices and visions, to create a loving community, to change what we even think is possible.
How do you advocate for LGBT equality?
We advocate through art. From the poets of Angel Island to Transatlantic spirituals, art has long been a tool for resistance in communities of color. For us, this work shines a light on our collective histories so that we may transform the future. It is queer cultural reclamation. We do this to energize our community through the arts, to create our own culture, and to inspire hope. We want to build something for generations to come. Something that goes much farther than us. Amidst so many tragedies, and racist realities, we can create the world anew.
Why the name 'Queer Rebels'?
We are riotously gay—from KB’s teenage punk rock days in '80s N.Y.C. to Celeste’s post-riot grrrl/Olympia days. We call ourselves Queer Rebels because queer of color art is urgent, because we are outsiders, because we will not let our histories be whitewashed and erased.We are powerful together. We pay homage to our ancestors and march boldly into the future, with aesthetic, experimental, joyful, liberatory zeal!
What are some future projects that we can expect from you and Queer Rebels?
Look out for…Exploding Lineage! Queer of color experimental films (coming to MIX NYC this Nov); SPIRIT: A Century of Queer Asian Activism; and Queer Rebels of the Harlem Renaissance. We also have smaller salon shows in the works. We want to tour! Please bring us to your town!
Individually, Chan is working on a new film and Boyce will be releasing a new CD with her Queer/Trans of color indie band, the Go2’s! [QueerRebels.com]