In the face of increased efforts to erase LGBTQ+ and Black history and representation from public life, one organization in South Florida is pushing back with a powerful tool: art. GenVAS, short for Generation Venetian Arts Society, aims to create a vision of equality, diversity, and inclusion through artistic expression. In a recent interview, Willie Riddle, the founder of GenVAS, shed light on the organization’s mission and its commitment to nurturing the emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being of all people.
Origins and Evolution:
GenVAS traces its roots back to the Venetian Arts Society, which originally focused on classical music. However, the organization has since evolved to encompass all disciplines and genres of art, welcoming artists from various backgrounds to perform at intimate and interactive events. Riddle, a former professional opera singer, founded GenVAS with the goal of highlighting multicultural diversity and promoting unity through the arts.
Artistic Expression for Equality:
The heart of GenVAS’s mission lies in using art as a platform to stand against the erasure of LGBTQ+ and Black history. Riddle believes that artists, composers, musicians, and dancers throughout history have predominantly been queer, emphasizing the significant role the LGBTQ+ community has played in shaping the arts.
GenVAS meticulously curates its performances, selecting artists who are not only masters in their craft but also possess the “it factor” of connecting with the audience on a personal level. Each artist must also have a message relevant to today’s society, addressing issues such as social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and racial equality. By using music and performances to convey these messages, GenVAS aims to foster understanding, respect, and unity among its audiences.
Pivotal Moments and Resilience:
GenVAS faced a significant challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic halted its events. However, this adversity provided an opportunity for the organization to reassess its goals and rebrand itself as Generation Venetian Arts Society. Riddle and his team embraced the setback, shifting their focus to virtual and intimate events, making art even more accessible to the community.
Upcoming Events and Vision:
As the pandemic subsided, GenVAS is once again gearing up for live performances. Among its upcoming shows, the organization is hosting “The New Belters,” featuring cabaret artists Nicholas and Liza Minnelli’s former opening act. The performance promises to be a compelling celebration of the LGBTQ+ civil rights struggle through the magic of Broadway tunes.
GenVAS stands as a beacon of hope and unity in South Florida, using the power of art to celebrate diversity, advocate for equality, and address pertinent social issues. As the organization continues to evolve and adapt, it remains committed to enriching the community’s emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being through thought-provoking and enlightening artistic experiences. With Willie Riddle at the helm, GenVAS continues to shine brightly, creating a vision of equality and inclusion that inspires us all.