July 8, 2010
Kingston, ON Canada
The Reelout Arts Project Inc. a not for profit charitable organization that hosts Kingston’s largest and longest-running film festival has been denied participation in this year’s Women’s Art Festival this August. Reelout Festival Director Matt Salton was informed Wednesday, July 8 by organizer Shirley Dowell by telephone that she had met with five committee members to discuss Reelout’s application to participate and that their application was denied and that the $30 entrance fee would be returned forthwith.
As a result of this April’s strategic planning session, Reelout’s Board of Directors, staff and membership laid out initiatives to foster the organization’s relevance throughout the year with a greater emphasis on community outreach to the larger community. The organization hosts a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender film festival and provides educational and resource films to libraries, public schools and rural counties to promote tolerance and sexual and gender diversity education. “It’s ironic that we applied to be a part of the Women’s Art Festival so that we could reach out to the community and share what we do on a year round basis and then be told by the very same organization we assumed would embrace us, that we were not welcome,” says Salton.
Reelout’s application and deposit was received by Women’s Art Festival organizer Shirley Dowell who telephoned Salton to express her concerns before returning his cheque. “I explained to her that we originated as a grass roots organization with a very strong feminist agenda and over the past twelve years we have championed the work of independent, women artists working in the film and video discipline and that we pride ourselves on creating not just queer positive space but safe space for women and women who love women,” Salton explains.
The original application was completed and submitted with a request to be close to a power source so that Reelout could project short films by independent women artists . When told that this situation would not be possible, Salton asked Dowell if instead Reelout’s all-women volunteer team could hand out literature detailing their community outreach projects which include a community lending library and the Reelout in Schools program.
“Shirley admitted she was stumped,” Salton says. “ She told me that it was tough call that would have to go before her committee but she told me that they were not big fans of people flaunting their sexuality and related an example of a woman from a couple of years ago who made certain parts of the female anatomy out of paper mache and the organizers of the Art Festival were not very happy about that.”
When asked why the committee unanimously agreed to deny Reelout’s access to the festival, Salton said, “Shirley told me that they had all agreed that we just were not the right fit for their festival especially with children around. I thanked her politely, hung up the phone and then picked my jaw off the floor. To imply to my face that because we are a queer organization that we must be a threat to children and that we will be flaunting our sexuality is a prime example of the homophobia that still exists in broad daylight in our city.”