It’s not often that a queer dance party with "nudes" for sale, a vinyl DJ and a drag show is held in downtown Rochester.
In fact, it had never happened before.
That’s why artist Chad Allen decided to turn his "Skins" art exhibition Monday night into the "biggest, gayest dance party Med City has ever witnessed."
Showcasing his work — which presented his figurative practices and literal depictions of the human form — the event at Canvas & Chardonnay hosted around 50 people throughout the night.
"There’s never been anything like this around here," Allen said. "Instead of waiting for that to happen, we just made it happen."
While June is Pride Month and there are Rochester Pride events later in the summer, Allen, who has lived all over the Midwest, wanted to start creating an atmosphere where events could be held at any time of the year.
"There’s Pride, and that’s great, but we just need to embrace it and not be afraid," he said. "We’re just going to keep pushing forward."
So, after reaching out to venue co-owners Tyler Aug and Leah Bee, he had the local space he needed. Another call booked the music, and another secured the entertainment.
"There’s this group of artists and collaborators in the city that are really working hard to make a positive impact on the community," Allen said. "It’s not easy … but it’s so much fun, and it’s so worth it."
Collaboration of art and business
Not only are events like Monday’s dance party beneficial to the growing community, but Canvas & Chardonnay co-owner Tyler Aug said it’s also good for developing the local arts and entertainment scene as a whole.
"It’s great for artists. It’s great for musicians. It’s great for everybody," Aug said. "We want to push the idea that people can have programming seven days a week, maintain an interest and grow that to keep things active."
With social events competing for time on the weekends, he said a focus was to bring more engagement to every day of the week. He said the flexibility their space allows has been helpful when planning to host events like this.
"We can go from a professional class setting to easily just pushing everything against the wall and having a dance party," Aug said.
A welcoming environment
That flexibility, creativity and novelty is exactly why local artists and activists Abigail Davis and Tameka Coleman came out to support the event.
"We’ve been here now for four years, and this is the most positive and fun queer event that we’ve been to in Rochester," Davis said. "He’s created an environment where both queer people and cishet people are all welcomed."
Coleman said Allen has worked to create a culture that is not only accepting of all art, but of all people as well.
"He pushes that there is no idea of what art ‘should be’ and that we’re all artists here together," she said. "He’s nurturing people who nurture back. That’s what you’re seeing in (Canvas & Chardonnay) right now."
And that type of environment was Allen’s goal from the beginning.
"Rochester’s slogan is ‘so much potential,’ because there really is — there’s just limitless possibilities," he said. "There really isn’t anything queer-centric here, so, we’re going to make it."
If people are still on the fence about coming to the next event they host, Allen simply said to "just come."
"There’s literally nothing happening like this in Rochester," he said, "and the next time it is going to happen, it’s going to be because of us."