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Mel Sutjiadi is a QTBIPOC multi-hyphenate digital creative director and visual designer for the 2021 Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Her work helps communities address diversity, inclusion, accessibility and embracing their identities.

Mel Sutjiadi has an impressive resume. A creative director, designer, illustrator, web developer, and educator, they have more than 18 years of professional experience in the arts. Mel founded ArtOverMatter Creative, a creative agency dedicated to using creative powers for social good, and Ripple of Change, a magazine amplifying change-makers.

“It’s so important for people to know it’s okay to be different, to challenge the norms of any space. As a business owner, it’s my job to help provide those opportunities.”

Since 2016, Mel has been designing for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF), a yearly British Columbia-wide LGBT+ film festival that “illuminates transformative moments in the lives of queer, trans, and Two Spirit people.” RBC is proud to be the festival’s presenting sponsor.

Illuminating LGBT+ lives through art

Each year Mel designs and creates VQFF’s posters by working with organizers to distill the overall theme of the showcased films into an illustration. This year’s theme, “Longing” is especially relevant: “I think we’re all kind of longing for something this year. There are so many layers in that longing. It reflects the state of mind of not just the artists and the community, but also so many others.”

A portrait image of Mel Sutjiadi.

Artist Mel Sutjiadi

The designs for VQFF are deliberately visually different each year. Mel says this helps reflect the varied and diverse films in the festival’s annual line-up. “It’s so interesting seeing how the themes change every year, yet I still always see a part of myself represented — as a queer person and as an immigrant.”

“Being immersed in these diverse perspectives makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than just viewing art.”

Ensuring British Columbia’s LGBT+ voices are heard

“It takes a village to make a film festival happen,” says Brandon Yan, Out On Screen’s Executive Director. “With the unwavering support of RBC, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to continue to program the best of 2SLGBTQIA+ independent cinema. This year, with ever-changing conditions for event organizers, RBC supported our vision to make sure we put our community’s safety first. They also afforded us the ability to really lean into presenting our festival online for not only for our usual audiences in Metro Vancouver but also to reach 2SLGBTQIA+ people across BC.”

VQFF exists, in part, to amplify and document British Columbia’s LGBTQ+ stories. “It gives a voice to the BC community,” says Mel. “Showcasing these films and this art is a tangible snapshot in time for what this community looks like every year. If we don’t support local art, these are stories that might otherwise be missed. 50 years from now, this will be what remains.”

Related story: Meet 4 Changemakers in Saskatoon’s LGBT+ Community

Whether it’s mentoring as an Association of Registered Graphic Designers Diversity & Inclusion Committee member or working with the VQFF, for Mel, everything is rooted in a passion for helping people. “My hope is to inspire the next generation,” Mel says. “Not just of filmmakers and designers, but anyone from marginalized communities.”

RBC recognizes that the arts play an important role in building vibrant communities and is a proud presenter of the Vancouver Queen Film Festival by Out On Screen. See more Mel Sutjiadi’s work as well as films and events at VQFF Out on Screen.