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2018 Grantee Profile: Invisible Footprints

Run from Summer 2019 through Winter 2020, Invisible Footprints 0.3 engaged Asian LGBTQ youth artists by training the group as guerrilla archivists and facilitating inter-generational dialogue through art and storytelling. This was done through creating platforms such as workshops, art-based community forums, a knowledge transfer symposium, and a website. Through community organizing and storytelling, the project aimed to foster a sense of belonging, strengthen community support networks, and improve artistic skills for the youth involved.

In February 2020, Invisible Footprints held their culminating symposium and video screening, Life to Art: Retracing Footprints Across Generations, at the Toronto Media Arts Centre. The event was a celebration of participants’ journeys through the project, from "connecting with elders within the community, to tracking down archival materials, to learning the various ways veteran activists, artists and community members have organized or represented themselves". One project lead notes, “over a seven-hour event we managed to have full attendance the entire time, with the majority of the audience identifying as part of the LGBTQ Asian community. The sheer success of this event is proof that more programming of this kind is in demand”.

This program was part of the larger Invisible Footprints series, programming that includes multi-generational projects that celebrate the history of Toronto’s East and Southeast Asian LGBTQ movement. They explain that "by revisiting the footprints of artists, activists, academics, and groups like Asian Lesbians of Toronto and Gay Asian Toronto, these projects highlight the milestones of disruption and social activism while exploring unknown and untold stories of these communities. Invisible Footprints also seeks to remind community members that 'if we do not collect our stories, if we do not celebrate the contributions of our pioneers and heroes, and if we do not preserve our collective memories, who will? And if we leave these tasks in the hands of others, how will we be represented'?”

When asked about the successes of the project, the IF team shares, “we are so happy that many of our youth artists were able to find a platform within the community and a place to form bonds with older generations. For many of them, this was their first exposure to the community and its history so we were honored to be able to facilitate their introduction to it.

Some of the artists expressed feeling like they had "gotten the chance to explore parts of themselves they had not had the resources to do before. Others mentioned how this opened the door for them to doing further work investigating their Queer and Asian identities”. A participant follows up, “As a filmmaker, I began this project with a clear idea of a voice in mind. I was not prepared for the wealth of emotions and bonding that would come from meeting and getting to know my interviewees- this completely threw off any idea of a ‘clear voice’ because I found that I had learned and absorbed so much more knowledge, understanding, and growth that I had become a different person than who I was at the start of the project. This project helped me grow artistically as well as emotionally, allowing the film to be mostly focused around the elders themselves, while also still told from a perspective of personal reflection”.

It’s been a privilege to support two rounds of Invisible Footprints programming, and we can’t wait to see what comes next from this brilliant and resilient group. To stay up to date on offerings, be sure to follow IF on Instagram at @invisible.footprints!


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