If you’ve been paying attention, it’s increasingly clear that performing in drag is, in every way, an artform – art in the make-up, art in the outrageous couture and art in the content of any given performance.
So when up and coming drag artist, “Bak Lava,” aka Jacob King, wanted to mash-up artforms, he brought the idea of a drag docent tour to Andy Schlauch, executive director of the Chihuly Collection & Morean Glass Studio. Schlauch immediately saw the possibilities. “Three years ago, this complete stranger came through the doors, enthusiastically shared his vision for incorporating drag into museum docenting – and I thought… that sounds like fun.”
Together, with Morean marketing guru, Sarah Aldrich, the trio and Chihuly team have been planning their third deliciously avant-garde event to coincide with National Coming Out Day on October 11.
Drag Queen Docent Tour: A Virtual Experience, happens on October 10 starting at 5:30 pm via Zoom.
“I was new to this area from Northern California,” says King. He laughs at the irony of his real surname. “You know, the King who would be queen. Bak Lava had just been born out of the cultural and style influences I experienced in the two years I spent teaching English in Thailand. I was looking for a way to elevate my performances while incorporating my love for art. I was walking by the Morean Arts Center’s Chihuly Collection, and just decided to walk through the doors.”
The rest, as they say, is glam-art herstory.
To hear Bak Lava tell it, “I just emerged from a giant opening seashell – just like in a Botticelli painting. My name is Turkish, which is all I can tell you about Turkish culture. My influences are Elle Woods (Legally Blonde), the girl scientist in the opening scene of Spider Man and Sasha Valor (A RuPaul’s Drag Race winner).”
To hear Jacob King tell it, “In 2018, in Fresno CA, I joined a group called Trashique. They put on fashion events similar to Trashion Fashion at ARTpool Gallery. I knew I had found something that would allow me to pursue my artistic passions. I just love to create a reality that transports people to a fun place.”
Like King, Andy Schlauch comes to us from the west coast. He actually worked for Dale Chihuly in the Seattle studio – center of the artist’s international glass empire. “Visitors from the new museum here in St. Pete, visited in 2013 and I was offered a place managing the collection. I’ve been here ever since, and it’s been an amazing experience.
“What I love about the Drag Queen Docent Tour,” Schlauch explains, “is that it explores the intersectionality of art and its audience. The proceeds give us a real opportunity to expand interest in, and exposure to art through accessibility programs that celebrate inclusion and diversity.”
To that end, The Morean/Chihuly team have partnered with the incredible Metro Inclusive Health for this event. The nonprofit will receive a portion of the proceeds to continue their vital work of meeting the healthcare needs of ALL in our diverse community.
So, what can we expect on this tour hosted by Chihuly’s “Queen for a Day?” (Ask your parents.)
“Of course, I love the collection, so there will be an actual docent tour,” explains King. “But through Bak’s POV and with a glamorous twist. There will be some skits, comedy and a few wonderful surprises.”
Ticket information can be found here, and options range from just the Zoom tour to a “party box” complete with beads, boas and cocktail recipe cards (boxes can be picked up at the Morean Arts Center’s Chihuly Collection on Central Avenue) and even VIP tickets (a few are still available), which let you to join Bak Lava in person – at a safe social distance – at the museum.
So put on your boa, your beads and your false eyelashes and join Ms. Bak Lava on a museum tour that will be anything but a “drag.”