Board of Directors & AMBASsADORS

                                                       Shannon Fortner

Shannon Fortner

(SHE/THEY) Executive Director & Founder

From a young age, Shannon Fortner (they/she) has fervently dedicated herself to the causes of justice and equality— timelessly inspired by their motto, “Community Focused, Community Driven.” 

In 2009, Shannon attended an Equality March in Washington D.C. where activist Cleve Jones put forth a rallying cry to the crowd to start organizing in their communities—inspired, she immediately went to work. The Equal Civil Rights Rally, which Shannon put together later that year, quickly evolved into the Harvey Milk Festival—not only to celebrate one of the nation’s first openly gay polticians, but to advance his ideals of equality, diversity, and LGBTQ+ rights. Over the past decade this Sarasota-based festival—which now operates under Shannon’s nonprofit ​​ the Fabulous Arts Foundation—has evolved into a multifaceted celebration of art, expression, queer identity and education. 

When they’re not planning multiple festivals, the Fabulous Arts Foundation (also known as FabAF), also conducts diversity training for local businesses, oversees a LGBTQ+ scholarship program, and continues the perpetual mission of queer advocacy. 

Besides organizing, Shannon also commands the audience in synth-rock band MeteorEYES, or arranges what will be on stage as talent buyer and event coordinator for both the Ringling Underground and her own arts management company, Moxie Productions SRQ. The community that Shannon diligently serves has recognized her efforts over the years, having received accolades such as the ‘Unity Award’ from Sarasota Magazine and the ‘Icon Award’ and ‘Favorite LGBTQ Community Leader & Activist’ from SarasotaOut.com. 

No matter what type of work they’re engaging in, the creation of an inclusive and visible platform for the queer community is always at the forefront of Shannon’s mission. 

 

                                                                Mason Gallo

Mason Gallo

(HE/THEY) VP, Board Member

Mason Gallo is a queer-identified transman activist and leader. His activism journey started at a young age. In high school, he volunteered as an HIV and AIDS peer educator in 1994 for the public-school system in Flint, Michigan. Since then, his extensive leadership background has played an integral part in the LGBTQIA+ community by continuing to participate and volunteer for various organizations. He works as a leader in the healthcare industry while attending the University of South Florida, St.Petersburg, pursuing a degree in psychology and leadership. In 2018, he was nominated and selected to take part in the Transgender Leadership Summit for Equality Florida. He recently started a Tampa Bay queer book club and is working towards the creation of a Tampa Bay queer social meetup to assist in creating safe spaces for queers to unite. Mason is an outspoken advocate for the Transgender community and provides outreach and education by partnering with universities and organizations to share his story of transitioning. He extends outreach
to be visible for those who are unable to do so. Malcolm X once said, “We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience
creates unity.” For Mason, being visible is all about spreading the light. Light about trans lives and experiences to create a world that is more loving, patient, and united.
                                                           George Hemcher

George Hemcher

(HE/HIM) Board Member

Maestro George Hemcher, a native of Frazer, PA, has been with Sarasota Opera since June 2017.

At Delaware Valley Opera, he worked on Verdi’s Otello, Mozart’s Die Entführung Aus Am Serail, and was the Music Director for Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate and Mozart’s Der Shauspieldirektor. Mr. Hemcher has also collaborated with Pocket Opera of New York, Regina Opera in Brooklyn, Light Opera of New York, eVoco Voice Collective Mixed and Women’s Ensemble, Voci da Camera, Oyster Bay Music Festival, and Floating Opera New York.  As a tenor, George has sung Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Spärlich in Nicolai’s Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Fiorello, the Officer, Ambrosius in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and El Remendado in Carmen.

George has played piano for Distinguished Concerts International New York on the world premiere of Cristian Grases Nocturnos y Adivinanzas at Carnegie Hall as well as Steven Sametz’ Carmina Amoris, Donald McCullough’s In the Shadow of the Holocaust, Zane Zalis’ I believe, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Tim Sharp/Wes Ramsey’s A High, Lonesome Bluegrass Mass, the Verdi Requiem, and Tarik O’Regan’s Tryptich and The Ecstasies Above. George was the Music Director at Venture Opera in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the OPERA America Recital Hall and at the Kay Meek Center in Vancouver, Canada. Previously George was the Music Director of the Opera Scenes program at Hofstra University.

Matthieu Chin

Matthieu Chin

(HE/HIM) Board Member

 was born and raised in Kingston Jamaica WI. Coming from a very diverse background and having lived in numerous different cities, Matthieu enjoys immersing himself in different cultures & customs.
From a young age he worked in the family’s liquor and grocery business learning operations, bookkeeping and overall street-smarts. Matthieu migrated to the US at the age of 15.
Growing up in the Caribbean he learned from an early age that “No man is an island!” Simply put, as humans we must care of each other. Family is important but equally important is chosen family. Surrounding one’s self with a genuine community who can share and care for each other deeply.

Matthieu and his rescue pets moved to St Petersburg, FL in 2019. He runs a financial planning & risk management practice with Northwestern Mutual. When away from his business he is passionate about actively uplifting the underserved populous, he is a fierce advocate for human rights, equality and supporting fellow locally owned businesses. When not working in the practice or with nonprofits, Matthieu enjoys traveling, concerts, music, record shopping (audiophile), cuisine, cooking, spending time outdoors, cars, gardening, and entertaining.

                                                            Andrew Ensign

Andrew Ensign

(HE/THEY) Board Member

Andrew Ensign resonates community and understands the importance of being involved and active with an organization that celebrates just that. Between being a part of the community he also is unforgettable. 

Fabulous Arts Foundation is seeking new Board Members that support our mission and believe in community.                                       

Email: shai@harveymilkfestival.org

 

        AMBASsADORs

                                                                Grace Korley

Grace Korley

(SHE,HER) Queer BIPOC Initiative Coordinator, Grant Writer, Intern Coordinator

Grace Korley is a student, teacher, advocate, partner, friend. Grace has an educational background in Women’s and Gender Studies, English Literature, and is working toward a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Winter Park, Fl. She is a long-time activist and volunteer with Harvey Milk Festival, now Fabulous Arts Foundation.  Grace is a native of Lakeland, Fl and  frequently travels between Winter Park and Sarasota, Fl. 

Michael Murphy (He/him)

Our Youth OUtreach Program

 

The HMF Youth Outreach program provides the opportunity to get youth more involved with the organization. The HMF Youth Outreach Program began in 2014 with the launch of our youth scholarship program.
This opportunity is open to all LGBTQ+ students in Sarasota County between the ages of 13 and 25.

Youth internship positions for graphic design, videography, community outreach, and nonprofit development.

Two internships and two scholarships are available per year.
Scholarship one, $500- 1,000
Scholarship two, $500- $1,000
Internship one, award of $500-$1000
Internship two, award $500-$1000

Applications will be released six months prior to the main festival and submissions will be
accepted until three months prior to the festival. Programming will run throughout the year and
culminate in Harvey Milk Festival programming in May.

This project directly impacts the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth by
offering preparedness for college through fellowship and community service experience.
The most significant benefit to participants in the HMF Youth Outreach Program is the
encouragement and financial support that youth are given to continue their education. The
program provides a creative outlet for LGBTQ+ youth to cultivate their artistic process and
connect with others in the community.Many of our youth have experienced alienation and
discrimination from family, friends and schoolmates and lack the essential network of support
they need when they are in school.

The HMF Scholarship and HMF Internship programs offer
participating youth opportunities to connect with the LGBTQ+ community through their work,
receive feedback from youth, artists, mentors and allies, and further their professional
development with support and encouragement from their community.

For further inquiry, contact info@harveymilkfestival.org

 

Community Partnerships

 

The Harvey Milk Festival  has partnered with these organizations.

ALSO Youth, Array Youth, Prism Youth Initiative 

 

 Visit Sarasota,  New College of Florida,  Jewish Federation of Sarasota & Manatee

Manatee Pride, The Community Foundation of Sarasota, Gulf coast Community Foundation,

  WSLR,  and more.

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