Sarasota activist Shannon Fortner wants to build an arts center focused on LGBTQ+ voices

Sarasota musician, activist and community leader Shannon Fortner is the founder of the Fabulous Art Foundation, or FABAF, as well as the Harvey Milk Festival, and for years has used entertainment and education to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ people.

Now, she says, the time is right for Sarasota to build a full-time performing arts space dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, and she’s planning a fundraising campaign to make it happen.

According to Fortner, while there are several local art spaces and theaters that make Sarasota a destination beyond its beaches, she wants the new facility to both host performances and act as a rental property for artists. locals and guests. She envisions the space containing between 500 and 750 seats and being located on the outskirts of downtown Sarasota.

In addition to the theatrical space, she would like the facility to provide rental opportunities for local and guest artists. It will also offer mental health services, in high demand amid a shortage of providers equipped to cater to trans and queer people, who call it affirmative care.

“It’s about saving space and helping them feel seen by doing things like addressing them with their correct pronouns,” says Fortner, who uses the pronouns “she” and “they.” “There are therapists who don’t offer this type of care and cause trauma instead. Parents call me and ask me for help with their trans child and there are only a few therapists and they’re sold out. It’s hard to watch this fight.

Grace Korley (left) and Shannon Fortner (right) marching across the Ringling Bridge to honor the victims of Pulse nightclub and the lighting of the bridge for Pride Month.

Once built, the new theater will host all of FABAF’s existing programming, including the Fabulous Independent Film Festival, Drag Culture Fest and more.

The theater doesn’t have a name yet, but what it does have is the passion behind it.

“Watching members who have felt unseen and struggling to be authentically themselves transform and claim their space energizes me,” Fortner says. “Once we have a space, if they have a dream, time and effort, we want their dreams to come true.”

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events FABAF

The 12th Annual Fabulous Independent Film Festivalfrom September 22 to October 1. People are welcome to set up chairs and blankets at this outdoor film festival.

Drag Culture Fest – Exhibition on the history of drag, from Nov. 22 to Jan. 23 at the Ringling. Learn about the history of drag culture dating back to the 1600s.

Drag Culture Fest – Sarasota Opera HouseDecember 2. Watch drag performances at this historic venue.

Drag Culture Fest – Mini Ball, December 10. A drag ball is in preparation. Register for more details to come.

For more information, visit the FABAF website.

William E. Bennett