THE sophomore year for Brisbane’s queer arts and cultural festival, MELT, has been hailed as a “great success” with larger and more diverse crowds taking part in the two-week long event.

Proving itself to be a future mainstay of the Brisbane LGBTI community, MELT has set its sights on cementing itself into the top three LGBTI arts festivals in Australia.

Its directors want to foster and provide an outlet for emerging queer artists and content.

“MELT 2016 was a great success,” festival director Adam Gardnir told the Star Observer.

“Numbers of tickets sold has doubled from 2015 and it shows how audiences are both enjoying the festival and beginning to understand its place in the calendar.

“We’ve had rave reviews for pretty much everything, both new Brisbane work and touring productions”

From concerts that celebrated the life of music pioneer David Bowie to former Play School stars, and from comedic, dance to dramatic works, that included a heartfelt local version of a production that shared the stories of real rainbow families, Gardnir said MELT truly ran the gamut of queer content.

“We had work from around the globe and in every performance genre, talking to an overwhelmingly diverse and complex community.” he said.

Along with being a festival for stage and music, this year’s MELT also showcased creative works from local, national and international artists, with the Portrait Prize being both a hotly contested and popular feature of the festival.

“My ambition for MELT and Brisbane at large is to be immediately international. We communicate with the world from one of the world’s greatest cities,” Gardnir said.

“The winner of MELT Portrait Prize is an outstanding artist with a truly international lens.”

South Sudanese-Australian artist Atong Atem has the prestigious honour of not only taking out all three of the judges’ picks, but also being the popular favourite, with her portrait ‘Akout’.

One of the judges, Queensland Premier and Minister for the Arts, Annastasia Palaszczuk, said that Atem’s entry was “stunning”.

“[Her portrait is] truly stunning. It’s a cheeky nod to classical portrait painting, but with a modern twist of African colours and textures,” Palaszczuk told the Star Observer.

“Most of all it’s so self-assured. It’s the artist saying ‘This is me’.”

Brisbane Powerhouse Curator of Visual Art Alexandra Winters and Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk with Portrait Prize winning entry "Akout" by Atong Atem. (photo: David Alexander; Star Observer)

Brisbane Powerhouse Curator of Visual Art Alexandra Winters and Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk with Portrait Prize winning entry “Akout” by Atong Atem. (photo: David Alexander; Star Observer)

Gardnir said if the high calibre of work from this year’s prize is any indication of how highly regarded the contest is, to be expecting to see its return.

“Employing European photographic techniques to uncover African stories, Atem’s work is buzzing with personal identity and community life,” Gardnir said.

“The Premier told me personally it was a very rigorous process given the superlative quality of so many of the portraits.

“Given to international scale and profound esteem of the entered pieces in just the first year, Brisbane Powerhouse will definitely be hosting MELT Portrait Prize again in 2017.”

Speaking to the importance of queer arts festivals in modern Queensland, Palaszczuk – who is the first Queensland Premier to be directly involved in such an event – said they were vital to any society that values inclusiveness.

“The Queensland I represent is an inclusive and welcoming one, and that extends to the LGBTIQ community. It’s been wonderful to see the Brisbane Powerhouse develop the MELT Festival to highlight the diverse skills and experiences of these artists,” she said.

“It’s wonderful to put Queensland on the front foot! LGBTIQ communities will continue to grow in strength and confidence, and so too will their contribution to our arts and cultural scenes.

Reviews of this year’s MELT have been glowing according to Gardnir, who is already looking to the years ahead for the festival.

“We’ve had rave reviews for pretty much everything, both new Brisbane work and touring productions,” he said.

“And I personally have received so much encouraging feedback that I’m only too keen to start programming MELT 2017.”

Although held simultaneously with MELT in 2015, this year’s 17th annual Brisbane Queer Film Festival will start its 11-day long run this Thursday at the iconic New Farm Cinemas, with several sessions already selling out.

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