By Michelle Mkhlian
STUDIO CITY, Calif. — On Saturday, July 24, 2021 the GALAS LGBTQ+ Armenian Society held its first ever Queernissage — an open-air pop-up market by LGBTQ+ Armenians and allies at the Studio City Pop-up. An homage to “Vernissage,” the open-air market in Armenia that has been a gathering place for artists and merchants for decades, Queernissage was a space for community members to express and share their creativity with each other and with the public.
The event was extremely successful with tons of folks of all ages and backgrounds turning out to support the eclectic array of vendors including artists, bakers, writers, craftspeople, and more! As a testament to the event’s success, many vendors actually sold out of their merchandise and by popular demand, GALAS hopes to plan another market for this Fall.
GALAS Board Member, Queernissage Vendor Coordinator and Armenian artist, Natalia Sookias explained, “Our intention for Queernissage was to support creatives to try something new, foster community, and share the creative brilliance within our community with the public. All this set within the hustle and bustle of a marketplace bazaar like many of us know from Armenia and the countries we immigrated from to LA. The continued vision for Queernissage is to create a regular marketplace where craftspeople, artisans, the community and greater public can gather, exchange and celebrate the richness of our intersecting cultures.”
Queernissage was a meaningful and remarkable experience for both vendors and attendees alike. Queer Armenian-Irish-American artist, Jessi Knox, who shared her artwork at Queernissage noted, “For whatever reason, I’ve always felt like my queer identity and my Armenian culture had to remain separate. I never imagined a space where I could comfortably celebrate these significant pieces of who I am in unison. I am still discovering ways to connect with my Armenian culture, the illustrator within me, and my queer identity. Being supported and surrounded by many other LGBTQIA+ Armenians and allies inspired me and showed me that it’s possible to blend all these parts of myself in my everyday life and arts. Queernissage felt like being home.”
For many vendors like author Marina Terteryan, Queernissage was their first opportunity to share their work and merchandise with people in person. Marina is the author of Sh!t My Armenian Grandma Says, a collection of stories, wisdom, advice, and jokes of her beloved grandmother she began compiling ten years ago and officially debuted at Queernissage. Marina shared, “I can honestly say my book may not have made it to the world anytime soon if it was not for this event and the encouragement of the GALAS community. This was more than a place to be a vendor and share my work. It was an immediate welcome into a thriving community. It was advocacy for my art. It was a generous sharing of resources to make sure my project succeeded. It was encouragement to make sure I didn’t give up on my vision.”