PRIDE, Politics and The History of Drag

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Jax Anderson performing at the Fabulous Arts Foundation's 2022 PRIDE Festival.

The 3rd annual PRIDE | Be Fabulous Arts & Music Festival returns to Sarasota this weekend, celebrating the history of drag culture with an exhibition and performance tonight at The Ringling Museum and championing LGBTQ+ rights in an all-day concert this Saturday at Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. “In the light of the current political landscape,” says festival founder Shannon Fortner, “it’s great to be able to have a voice.” Keynote speakers include Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez, the former Chief Diversity Officer and Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at New College of Florida, and Zander Moricz, a primary plaintiff in the “Don’t Say Gay” lawsuit brought against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The festival kicks off this evening at The Ringling, where a collaboration with Fortner’s Fabulous Arts Foundation and the Stonewall National Museum has created an exhibition on the history of drag performance from the 1800s through today. Through archival photos, books and pamphlets, letters and even some garments on loan (Fortner remains mum on the details. “You have to come see!”), the showing creates a timeline for the audience to follow, exploring drag performance as an artistic tradition and means of expression passed down for generations. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to educate people about drag culture,” says Fortner. “To recognize that drag is harmless, it’s fabulous, it’s funny, it’s beautiful—it’s all the things we want to see in a performance, be it music, dance or theater.”

At the same time, but up on the third floor, celebrated drag performer Lindsay Carlton-Cline will be leading a show on the history of drag culture in Sarasota, specifically, and all the people, performers and places that made the scene what it was and still is. But while tickets are sold out for tonight’s performances (you can still look for secondhand sales on the festival’s Facebook page), the exhibition itself will be on display through Pride Month and is free to view.

The festival continues Saturday at Fogartyville, with the music kicking off at 3pm and running strong until 10pm. Bands include headliner Palomino Blond, the Miami-based rock-and-rollers and Ringling Underground veterans making waves since 2018, and the alt-country/folk-punk pairing of Proud Miranda. Even Fortner’s own MeteorEYES will take the stage, playing both new material and purposefully digging out some old tunes, such as “Across the Pond,” a song written when gay marriage was still illegal. “The band felt it was really important that we play some of these songs,” says Fortner.

For those looking to catch the keynote speakers throughout the day, Rosario-Hernandez takes the stage at 5:45pm and Moricz at 8:45pm. “We’re a music festival, but we’re also a platform,” explains Fortner. “And we want the community to hear from people who have been doing such important work. It’s important that this community comes together and lifts each other up.”

Festival entry is $7 at the door, with proceeds going towards the pursuit of a permanent home for the Fabulous Arts Foundation. “So we can support our community year-round,” says Fortner. “It’s been really wonderful to see something like this happening in a space like that.”

Pictured: Jax Anderson performing at the Fabulous Arts Foundation's 2022 PRIDE Festival.

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