The power of ‘trans art school’
After a false start in 2019 (because of you-know-what), the Trans Art School by TransAmsterdam has since grown into a safe space for creative development. I’m happy that I could talk to chairperson Yvo Manual Vas Dias for my first article in TRANS magazine. As a lover of everything creative, I’m curious to discover what Trans Art School has to offer.
‘TransAmsterdam started with the Trans Pride in 2014,” shares Yvo. ‘We saw there that art really connects people and that more and more creative people came out of their shell. We had nine days during pride, with a different program each day. Sometimes people would come in really shy, but then as soon as they got on stage they turned into a completely different person. Whether that was through music, poetry, or film, you suddenly saw the artist come out. That was such a wonderful experience, that we wanted to do something with this throughout the entire year.’
When other organisations took over Trans Pride in 2019, there was finally time for that. ‘We had a meeting with a few volunteers and artists from TransAmsterdam and we brainstormed together. That’s also when we came up with the name Trans Art School, and after that we’ve continued developing it. This is done for and by trans people. The board also solely contains trans people, because it’s really important that we start creating our own policies. TransAmsterdam organises multiple things at which cis people are more than welcome, but not the board. Cis people are also not allowed to participate in activities by the Trans Art School, in order to create as safe of a space as possible for trans and nonbinary people.’
One of the things TransAmsterdam organises as well is InClusion. ‘Every last Friday of the month we host the Trans and Friends Cafe InClusion. This night takes place at The Manor Hotel in Amsterdam and is a networking and meeting place where you can be yourself. Besides creative workshops and a cafe night, we’re also planning to organise boxing workshops. We hope that in doing so we can help trans people to find their strength. That actually aligns well with the Trans Art School and the breeding place we want to offer.’ However, it doesn’t end here. “Our third cornerstone is that we want to offer a platform to trans artists. We have a considerable international network that we use to connect trans artists to each other if they want to work together, but also to connect artists to (bigger) organisations. It’s time that trans artists can also take up space outside of the queer community.’
It’s wonderful to hear how much passion Yvo has for this organisation. He’s bursting with plans for the future. ‘I would love for us to keep being a breeding ground for starting artists, but also for people who just want to learn something. Besides that, I have really big dreams, but we’ll take it step by step. It would be great if artists that start with us are able to get a spot on big stages. But because a lot of people who come to us only just started, we want to start offering multiple workshops within the same discipline. We could, for example, give ten classes in spoken word and then make a poetry collection. Or, music lessons and then make a record, maybe even an entire theatre production. Those kinds of long-term development projects do require a lot more time. We don’t want to rush that because it’s much too vulnerable for that.’
When I ask what it is that makes TransAmsterdam so special, Yvo’s eyes start sparkling. ‘Mostly the people and how they grow. When I look at our volunteers I see a mix of very different people. When Lucette from our team passed away, it was really noticeable that despite our different experiences we’re all really close. Lucette’s family asked us to organise the funeral. We were working on that during Cafe InClusion and even two people who had never met Lucette wanted to help, because they would do anything for their sister. Those same women now coordinate Cafe InClusion and have really found their strength. When I see that, also with the participants from Trans Art School, I find that so valuable. I see how people in our community grow and then are more socially assured. Community is so important, it gives so much support in bad times, but we’re also there for each other to celebrate the good things.’