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AmsterDAYUM! Europe's Good Time Town Becomes High Culture Haven

by Jill Gleeson
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Oct 6, 2018

It's the Saturday night of Pride Amsterdam 2018. The city has been experiencing bright sunshine and high temperatures for the past couple weeks, almost an unknown in a place usually beset by overcast skies. The beautiful weather brought out the masses for the Canal Parade. Long after the last of the 80-some boats have floated by, leaving behind a happy haze of confetti, revelers stay to play. Street parties galore spread into neighboring avenues and alleys, turning the center of Amsterdam into one big celebration.

But no matter how late the night goes, culture-savvy visitors will be dragging themselves out of bed the next day to hit up Amsterdam's booming artistic offerings, many by and for the LGBTQ community.

"There's always something going on at the Stedelijk Museum, or pop-up shop openings of the local designers," says Amsterdam queer special events and club nights producer Jordi Ariza Gallego. "The city has a small, intense center, so it's quite normal and lovely the see the artists, queens, locals, students and alternative queers together in festivals, gallery openings or theater plays."

Stuffy, They Are Not

The Netherlands' most celebrated city is known for its art repositories as much as its Red Light District, thanks to offerings like the Van Gogh Museum. Queer folk are especially well-represented at contemporary photography museum Foam.

During Pride this year, Foam presented "Y'all Better Quiet Down," an exhibition detailing members of the worldwide LGBTQ community by JeanPaul Paula and Florian Joahn, but Merel Kappelhoff, head of press and PR for the museum, stresses that LGBTQ-centric exhibits happen year-round.

"Foam finds it important to be a platform for all kinds of photography and subjects and we also have a sharp focus on upcoming talent and current subjects in contemporary photography," Kappelhoff notes. "Consequently, there are often LGBTQ-related themes that artists are working with."

The Amsterdam Museum features exhibits related to the city's queer community, according to Sebas van der Sangen, who leads tours of the institution during Pride. "My favorite objects are two wedding rings belonging to one of the first same-sex couples married in the country," he says. "While the other couples put a wedding ring upon each other's fingers, Frank Wittebrood and Peter Lemke took their gold-colored rings, which they'd gotten in a toy store, off. With this they revealed their true wedding rings tattooed on their ring fingers."

It's Showtime!

Amsterdam is home to plenty of performance-based LGBTQ cultural events, too, like the Queen's English Theatre Company's all-male take on "The Importance of Being Earnest," which runs November 6 to 10.

Meanwhile, The International Queer & Migrant Film Festival (IQMF) will offer up a full slate of events December 5 to 13 "focused on sexual diversity and queer issues in relation to migration," says Antonij Karadzoski, the festival's producer.

Since its founding in 2015, IQMF has grown into "a multidisciplinary platform with film screenings, debates, art exhibitions, theatre performances and a radio podcast," Karadzoski continues. "IQMF serves as a platform for giving a voice in different artistic forms and through that learning more about groups who are traditionally underrepresented in the world."

Fashion Forward

Fashion has a strong footing in Amsterdam, thanks to queer couturiers who are making big waves with daring designs, including rabble-rouser Bas Kosters.

Kosters, who also dabbles in illustration, performance art and publishing, is perhaps best known for creating unisex leggings printed with penises that he dubbed "Is that a cock or your legs?" They're available on his webshop.

Jimmy Paul, one half of the internationally-famed fashion label MaryMe-JimmyPaul (Miley Cyrus has rocked their hot pink oversized jacket), believes the Dutch city is the place to be for creatives. "Amsterdam gives me the freedom to work and not conform to any trends and fashions," he says. "Life in the Netherlands is pretty easy, with a high social system that helps young artists to develop and create."

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.


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