Renée Brazeau is mapping queer-friendly spaces in Halifax, and dozens have joined her so far.
Brazeau is the current CraftLAIR artist-in-residence at the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia. She introduced her interactive “queer mapping project” at Halifax’s Nocturne art festival in October. The public was invited to pick up a drawing tool and add their own ideas to a colourful 20-foot map.
Brazeau prompted participants with questions like: “What queer spaces exist in Halifax?”; “How do these spaces create inclusive experiences for queer folks?”; and “What spaces do you wish existed?” So far, more than 80 people have added to the expanding map.
After seeing her trans loved ones navigate different spaces in Halifax, Brazeau was inspired to create a project that explored the resources available to queer folks in the city. “I thought: What if there was a resource that compiled all of these spaces? And what if I made that resource collaborative?”
“People started connecting with one another just through conversation,” says Brazeau. As people added to the map, she would hear them agreeing on their favourite spots: “I got a tattoo there!” or “I really like that hairstylist too!”
She says these connections have been a comforting thing for queer folks.
The map now has a home at the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia. The CraftLAIR residency focuses on public engagement, allowing people to contribute to art within the studio space. Brazeau’s studio is open to the public throughout the week, where they can continue adding to the map.
“The greatest impact of this project has been the sense of connection created within the queer community,” says Brazeau.
When Brazeau moved to Halifax from Ottawa two years ago, she noticed an abundance of queer-friendly spaces. As a newcomer to the city and a member of the queer community, she wanted to meet people and share in new experiences. She says this project has expanded that mindset because it has connected so many other queer folks as well.
“It’s been lovely and emotional,” says Brazeau. “It’s been so empowering to create a space where queer people can meet one another and build their chosen family.”
Brazeau says the project is generating conversation about all aspects of queer experience in the city.
“Folks have been discussing queer nightlife and how it has shifted over the years. They’ve discussed the drag scene and how it’s ‘blown up’ in Halifax. They’ve discussed the importance of creative spaces like craft circles for queer people. They’ve discussed the lack of gender-affirming care in the province,” she says.
“Renée’s project works wonderfully in the space because it provides accessible, public programming,” says CraftLAIR facilitator Anna Taylor. “The residency takes art outside of traditional crafting and gives it new life through collaboration.”
Brazeau’s partner, Levi Parsche, was present at the Nocturne community mapping workshop and has loved seeing the project evolve. “[The project] allows for discussion about how some of these spaces are still not affirming for queer and trans individuals, and hopefully helped spark discussion around the gaps in accessing services that currently exist,” he said in an interview Friday.
Brazeau is brainstorming how she will display the map following her residency. “I’m hoping I can digitally archive it because a physical map is a bit limiting,” she says. “I’m also creating an embroidered version of the map as a reflection of my own experience with the project.”
Right now, she is happy to be kickstarting these conversations about queerness. “Creating this map with folks has been a weird social experiment because anyone can add to it. It is truly representative of the diverse intersections of queerness,” she says.
About the author
Fiona Clancey is a master's student in journalism at the University of King's College. She obtained her Bachelor of Music in voice from Mount...