‘Queer Collage Collective’ wins Awesome Kingston October grant

Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. Last week, the October grant was awarded to Queer Collage Collective, a queer-led, anti-oppressive arts collective for healing and strengthening mental health.

Queer Collage Collective (QCC) is run by Alyssa Vernon, who said it aims to educate through collage art programming that “centralizes anti-oppressive pedagogies.” Since 2022, QCC has run events for the Faculty of Education, held social events at local bars, and hosted collage events at Art Galleries such as The Union Gallery and The Agnes. 

In 2018, Vernon and a group of her queer friends began Queen’s Collage Collectives as a Queen’s Club to bridge the gap between arts and anti-oppressive education on campus. Vernon, who identifies as Pansexual and uses she/her pronouns, graduated from Queen’s with a Bachelor of Arts and Science (Honours) with a Major in Gender Studies in 2021, and with a Bachelor of Education with a Social Justice concentration, and History and English teachables in 2022. She then brought her Queen’s club to the entire Kingston community, changing the name to the Queer Collage Collective.

“The transition to running QCC on my own as a business after graduating has been slow,” Vernon told Kingstonist. “But, I have been able to get paid for the work I’d like to be paid for, and am able to provide QCC events for nonprofits and community organizations that are not able to pay me due to low funds. I’m still within the transition of solidifying QCC as a business as well, as I am a supply teacher for LDSB and [for] a Youth Program at the Boys and Girls Club, so I’m juggling a few jobs!”

When asked to describe what a QCC event might look like, Vernon shared that at every event, collage materials are available for attendees to get crafty on a theme, on their own, or with their friends. She offers both social and educational events, and can tailor events to any occasion or theme.

“This piece is a collage I made at the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at my school. My friends and I are part of the GSA and we love taking on assignments for it. This assignment was to make a quote about a place that signifies a personal queer experience of importance and create a collage around it. This piece is based off of my first public queer relationship.”

~Anonymous, 2022. Image via QCC.

Social events can include music, with the collage materials laid out on tables for everyone to use, and are a place to chat and socialize regarding a specific theme, or just for fun. Educational events include a lesson Vernon creates on the topic, often presented via Google Slides during the session. Participants collage to reflect on what they learn. These events often have a question-and-answer period as well.

A collage project from 2022. Image via QCC.

Vernon told Kingstonist she saw a gap in education that involved arts as a means to make education more personable, meaningful, and easier to digest. 

“Now that I am a certified History and English teacher, I want to continue providing queer and racialized folks in the Kingston community with collage arts programming that fosters a sense of education, community, and connection,” Vernon explained. 

“Being a supply teacher, I am well aware of the culture surrounding racialized and queer communities in Kingston, so I want to be able to provide racialized and queer folks in Kingston with a space that supports them 100 per cent and will give them opportunities to feel safe, seen, and heard, and express themselves through collage; whilst giving them chances to explore anti-oppressive topics and experiential learning opportunities.”

As the Queen’s Collage Collective, the club hosted the first-ever Queen’s Queer Prom (2019), a virtual anti-racist collage series featuring BLM-TO co-founder Pascale Diverlus (2020), and many events centred around queer kinship, anti-racism, mental health, allyship/solidarities, and more.

Vernon is now running QCC entirely independently, and she said she plans to use the Awesome Kingston grant to purchase some new items to support the business.

“I have all of my collage materials that I take to events with me in an old suitcase (that is falling apart, and weighs 200 pounds). The micro-grant is going to help me replenish my materials, and also help me purchase a new portable storage system for me to use until I am able to secure a space of my own for QCC.”

A space of her own is one of Vernon’s big goals for QCC. She has plans to run educational and social events and workshops which would include a free anti-oppressive/social justice-oriented after-school program, an anti-oppressive book club, and art therapy sessions. She is also hoping to be available for school trips, and other in-the-community events.

“In terms of social events, paired with collaging, I would run queer movie nights, drag race nights, queer dance nights, karaoke and collage nights, wine and collage nights, and more!” she expressed. “I see the future QCC space as a queer community arts centre where we learn from each other and create art that reflects the dreams we have of a future where everyone is free. The possibilities for education, community, and connection are endless once I have the means to run QCC out of my own space!”

Queer Collage Collective can be found on both Instagram and Facebook at @queercollagecollectives.

Those interested in having QCC run a social or educational event/workshop for a classroom, workplace, event, party, etc., can get in touch with Vernon at [email protected].

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