An embroidery piece featuring the trans symbol in its negative space, created by Eliya Tova Gorman-Baer, one of the community curators for TransFabulous. Photo by Eliya Tova Gorman-Baer
Lavender spoke recently with Ray Lockman (they/them/their), Service Manager for Community Engagement and Programming at Minneapolis Central Library about the TransFabulous programs. As supervisor, Lockman coordinates adult programming at Minneapolis Central, focusing especially on three patron communities: seniors, patrons experiencing homelessness, and LGBTQ folks.
What exactly is TransFabulous? When, why, and how was it started?
TransFabulous is a year-round arts program centering around trans and gender-nonconforming art and artists. Local artist Molly Parker Stuart introduced the program in 2015, and it became a partnership with Transforming Families to create affirming spaces for trans youth to create art.
We have morphed and expanded into a team of staff and community liaisons who work together to schedule monthly art workshops and an annual exhibit in Minneapolis Central’s Cargill Hall gallery.
Who may participate?
The workshops are open mostly to adults, but we often include teens. The gallery exhibit is open to the public and often features TransFabulous teachers and participants. You don’t have to be trans to participate, but as a trans and gender-nonconforming-centered space, everyone must be affirming, non-discriminatory, and use correct names and pronouns for everyone.
Is there a consistent roster of instructors? Do workshops repeat?
We have a great community curator who solicits proposals for new workshops and has an eye on featuring new and diverse voices and media. The only workshop that has been repeated—though not the with same teacher—is Zine making. Zines are a medium beloved to [the] trans community and others who struggle to access or want to subvert mainstream media.
Among other workshops we’ve held: Creative dance, horror poetry (in October, of course), weaving, embroidery, beading, photography, and hip-hop. If a teacher has know-how and passion, we do our best to give them a platform.
Are programs free to all participants?
TransFabulous programs, like all library programs, are free to all participants. Supplies are provided; all you need to bring is you. A strength of TransFabulous is reducing the cost-barrier to art. If you’ve been curious to try something, one of our workshops is a way to create in a new medium without investing money.
Is there a different theme for each workshop? Do you take suggestions for possible workshops?
Mostly, each monthly workshop explores a different medium. There are so many to choose from, and so many Twin Cities artists with talent, we try to offer something for everyone. Anyone interested in teaching, or with questions or suggestions can email our community curator at [email protected]
How are the workshops important for trans and gender-nonconforming communities?
Creativity is healing. Trans and gender-nonconforming people face such trauma and hostility out in the world. TransFabulous is a place to exhale in an affirming space, to hear your correct pronouns used without fail, and to make beautiful art together. The community we create is as important as the art.
How does the funding work, and how supportive has the library been towards the workshops?
Very! We fund the program through a grant from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; we’re grateful to the library for entrusting us with that money. And the library proudly boosts our events and highlights our work internally and to the public.
The state divvies up their Legacy money among departments and consortia, including Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), which then gives a chunk to Hennepin County Library.
Every year—and sometimes more often—project managers apply for some of HCL’s pot of money. The Legacy funds cover everything from contracts with teachers to supplies, and in return we measure outcomes for participants, just like with any other grant. By giving TransFabulous Legacy funding, Hennepin County Library says that what we are doing is innovative and creates meaningful change in people’s lives. And they’re right!
When and where are the workshops held?
The workshops are second Wednesdays, 6-8:30 p.m., in the Commons at Minneapolis Central (300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis). For the first half-hour, folks drift in as we chat and network. The workshop itself is 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Is there a current delay per the Coronavirus pandemic?
All in-person programs are canceled through August, including the annual Cargill Hall gallery exhibit TransFabulous: Beyond the Binary to have been featured in June and July. But we are exploring ways to take TransFabulous virtual. The annual exhibit, scheduled for June/July 2020, will get a new late 2021 slot, to be announced once we’re back up and running.