QUEER, ILL + OKAY (QIO) is a multidisciplinary arts and educational series variety of artistic disciplines including performance, workshops, film series, and educational panels exploring, challenging and reinventing narratives about the contemporary experience of queer individuals and their relationships to HIV/AIDS and other forms of mental and chronic illness. After being diagnosed as HIV+ in 2012, Joe Varisco invited an expansive artistic community to create new work around the relationship between queerness, the body, and chronic illness.
QUEER, ILL + OKAY has grown exponentially over the past five years. This show is a powerfully community driven initiative that is dedicated to building out of a place of intersectionality and an ever growing mission of continuous improvement and inclusion. QIO particularly prioritizes the experiences of underrepresented and underserved populations.
Since establishing the first production in 2012 in conjunction with the performing arts series Poonie’s Cabaret at Links Hall featuring eight Chicago-based artists it has grown exponentially rotating to new venues across the city in various neighborhoods, incorporating artists from across the country, produced mentoring programs for participating artists, educational workshops at multiple universities in collaboration with Howard Brown Health, received national press coverage and been awarded a series of grants. In 2014, QIO ran a successful fundraising campaign to finance the second show at Defibrillator Gallery, and in 2015 was the recipient of grants from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Visual AIDS, and awarded a stipend from the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) at the Storefront Theater.
QIO has remained a low-threshold of access to audience members often free and open to the public programming as well as providing various accessibility options including ASL interpretation and captioning.
Following our 2016 production where QIO doubled all efforts by bringing two sold-out weekends of new and original content with fourteen artists in collaboration with Oracle Productions and national touring exhibition Art AIDS America Chicago we are going even deeper!
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“Queer, Ill and Okay allowed artists the freedom to address their chronic illness in a way that was not tokenizing.” – Chicago Artist Writers (July 2014)
“A show focused on illness—mental as well as physical—may sound morbid, but this show was really about coping, struggling, new determinations, and winning over dire circumstances with cheer and attitude.” – Windy City Times (July 2014)