After Akron hosted events like the Gay Games and Flair Fest, Dylan Yellowlees wants to give the city another opportunity to connect during the Akron LGBT Film, Music and Arts Festival later this year.
The festival, a 2016 Knight Arts Challenge winner, will run Aug. 17-25, featuring art and entertainment that celebrates the local LGBT community. But Yellowlees hopes it will bring together people from all backgrounds.
“I know there’s community here,” says Yellowlees. “But it’s often hard to find something that appeals to gay men, lesbians, transgender folks and bisexuals, and straight folks too. I wanted to pull together something that would appeal to everyone.”
The week starts off with the “Rocky Horror Picture Show Musical” via the Millennial Theatre at the Akron Civic Theatre, followed by a Musical and Drag Brunch at Jilly’s Music Room. The festival features The Indigo Girls, who also performed in Akron in 2014 for the Gay Games. Films by and about people in the LGBT community will screen at The Nightlight throughout the week, including “The Founders,” with Director Carrie Schrader speaking on her experience making films as a lesbian. Other events and venues have yet to be announced.
Some events will be free to attend, while others will be ticketed, and Yellowlees is planning on offering a limited number of VIP tickets for reserved seats. Yellowlees says holding different events at multiple venues across Akron gives more people a chance to be a part of the celebration.
“We’re trying to go across town, so everybody can get to something, hopefully, and not just have everything in one venue,” Yellowlees says. “Hopefully, if they come to one event, they’ll see some of the other events we have going on and want to go to those, too.”
For LGBT people, the festival provides another welcoming space to meet others and build community.
“I think it’s an opportunity for people to get together doing something that isn’t going to a bar, not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Yellowlees says. “I wanted something where people could meet people with similar interests. Maybe you’re not a film person, but you like drag, or just brunch. We’ve got that.”
The events are also designed for attendees who aren’t normally part of the community to be able to have a good time and possibly interact with and learn about LGBT experiences.
“A lot of straight people think they’ve never met a gay person, even though their cousin or uncle is gay,” Yellowlees says. “It’s always good to get people together around something they enjoy, so they can realize the person next to them is just like them.
“We all have our struggles. It’s easy to get lost when you put people into groups. It’s a lot harder to let that slip by when it’s the person next to you.”
Updates and information about the festival will be published on its Facebook page, which can be found at facebook.com/LGBTFestivalAkron. To volunteer or suggest ideas for an event, contact Yellowlees through the Facebook page.
The festival is sponsored by The Akron Civic Theatre, Jilly’s Music Room, The Nightlight, Olivia Travel and TomboyX.
Kyle Brown is a freelance journalist who is still upset that he was out of town the week of the Gay Games. He is available at kbrownwrites.com.