Held each June for more than two decades now the Men On Men art competition has continued to grow in size. The competition welcomes CIS and Trans male artists from all cultures, backgrounds and histories to submit works that ‘express their experiences, desires or identity.’

“It started in the mid 90s, but we don’t actually have an exact day because you know, sometimes history gets lost.” Brett Lasham, who in 2007 took over The Laird Hotel as co-owner, tells Star Observer. “It was started by Vic Bears as part of their Southern Hibernation annual festival.

“It was eventually taken over by The Laird because it grew into such a big event on its own and to give Vic Bears that break.

“Back then, the tag line was something like, ‘the art of masculinity’ but about six years ago we decided to drop that, because masculinity became a bit of an irrelevant term on the scene. We all have a bit of camp and a bit of masc in us.”

 Each year, as Latham enthuses, the quality of entries continues to grow with the competition continuing to be a successful platform for emerging artists.

“We have artists who enter each year, and keep getting better and better. Some have won and then go on to get gigs at other galleries, that’s a huge part of the reward for us.”

Despite many venues, festivals and events pivoting towards online presentation in place of planned events The Laird Hotel chose not to pursue this avenue for the 2020 Men On Men Art Competition.

“Things can be done really amazingly online,” Lasham says. “But we felt with the art competition, we didn’t just want to be one of thousands of websites dedicated to art. We would have missed the benefits of the competition, people coming in, conversing and all those things.

 “2020 has just been an absolute whirlwind. We all came into the COVID period thinking ‘we could be closed down for a month and so we better put somethings off…’ Then it was July.

“We put the art competition off twice, but once the Stage 4 Restrictions came in, we knew it couldn’t happen.”

Concluding our interview, we asked Brett what plans were afoot for the competition next year.

“We may look at something early in the year. Something more scaled back. But I don’t think we will know until November what sort of events we can hold. But hopefully by June we will be back in action doing all those big things that we normally do.”

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