BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In 2016, Charles Champagne was a new college graduate looking for something more.
With a degree in digital advertising under his belt, Champagne was searching for something that would combine his degree with his creative passion. Most importantly, Champagne wanted something that would fill a major gap in Baton Rouge: a project exclusively catered toward the LGBTQIA+ community in the South.
“I was growing frustrated with the difficulty in finding a clear direction and full-time job in publishing, especially in the queer world,” Champagne said. “At the same time, I was realizing how many talented friends and local artists I knew that were having trouble getting their work recognized.”
After a night of brainstorming, Champagne’s passion project was born.
Champagne created LEUR, an annual Southern Queer Arts magazine dedicated to documenting the Southern queer experience.
“I knew that I could totally do something on my own, and next thing you knew, issue one was ready by August 2016.”
LEUR combines art, creativity, and community collaboration to create a uniquely tailored expressive outlet for queers in the South.
Once LEUR was published, Champagne was inspired to expand his work beyond his publication and into the Baton Rouge community. LEUR attended the Baton Rouge Pride Festival in 2016 and spread the word about its search for LGBTQIA+ artists in the area.
The following year, Champagne suggested producing a partnering art festival with Pride Fest to showcase local LGBTQIA+ artists in Baton Rouge. Champagne helped create ArtsFest, giving the Southern queer community a platform for expression and growth.
“This creates opportunities for local queer artists to sell their work and allow members in our community to support queer artists by purchasing and sharing their work,” Champagne said.
Champagne has remained heavily involved with Baton Rouge Pride Fest throughout the years with LEUR, most recently partnering with events during Baton Rouge’s first official Pride Week in 2019.
Champagne’s primary focus has been the Queerative Market: An Arts Market for Southern Queer Creatives hosted by LEUR at the Baton Rouge Pride Fest on Saturday, June 15. The event aims to provide a space for Southern queer artists and creators to share their art with the Baton Rouge community.
With Champagne’s involvement in Baton Rouge Pride Fest, he has been able to see the importance of Pride representation in Baton Rouge and in the South as a whole.
“It provides validation to those LGBTQIA+ Louisianans who feel that they are unwelcome here in the South,” Champagne said. “It reminds people to love people for who they are, and it reminds our community here in Baton Rouge that queer people exist.”
Champagne also urges those in Baton Rouge to support the queer community beyond Pride month by simply being available and supportive of queer friends and family.
“Showing continuing support for the community rather than only for one month out of the year,” Champagne said. “Attend more local LGBTQIA+ events, participate when needed, and learn when to simply show up and listen.”
The Baton Rouge Pride Fest will be held Saturday, June 15 from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Raising Cane’s River Center.