Before you delve into what Ten, Tiny, Talks means for sociopolitical representation and visibility, founder Zeloszelos Marchandt would remind you that the new hybrid artist residency and multi-disciplinary festival—with its roster of more than a dozen local and national Black and Indigenous artists who are transgender, nonbinary, or queer—is about honoring artists’ labors with beneficial exposure and respectful compensation.

“Yes, we’re disrupting things, but at the end of the day, we’re human, we deserve to make money from our arts, and to be seen and heard. It’s to everyone’s benefit,” Marchandt told the Mercury.

Ten, Tiny, Talks (TTT) began in May, and concludes in early November. TTT’s programming has already featured a drag show from D&D Productions, a visual art show and artist talk with the painter ​​a.c. ramírez de arellaño, an outdoor Black Trans Pride party, the circus show, Change, by aerialist Belinda Rose, and the virtual play, I Turned It Over, a coproduction of Marchandt and comedian and Mercury contributor Mx. Dahlia Belle.

Despite having “tiny” in its name, TTT is expansive, using the number ten as a goal rather than a cutoff. Marchandt didn’t place any limitations on which mediums artists use, prompting artists to tell whatever stories they wanted, however they wanted.

“I want it to be storytelling-centered because that is one thing that is pretty unified across countless diasporas in the Black and Indigenous world, but I want to leave the door open for all those experiences,” Marchandt said. “If we’re really going to allow an artist to make art, we’re going to let them speak clearly and feely, without much hindering beyond just positive critique, and support when it comes to getting their work off the ground or installed.”

Crave Theatre co-founders Sarah Marie Andrews and Kylie Jenifer Rose approached Marchandt in early 2020 to stage a single production of his own choosing. Marchandt’s talents include drag, operatic vocals, and circus arts like acrobatics. But rather than keep that show for himself, Marchandt convinced Andrews, Rose, and Crave’s board of directors that staging TTT was a better use of their resources. Marchandt says Crave obtained funding during last summer’s protests, but other Black arts leaders had turned down their funding offer. He understood why.

“It’s really suspicious to have somebody come to you, especially white people with money, and be like ‘Hey let’s look at Art History 101!’ and how many times is that a blessing and a curse?” Marchandt said.

TTT gives artists unrestricted space to tell whatever stories they choose, however they choose, and grow the next levels of their careers. Regardless of their own backgrounds, audience members benefit from the cathartic exchange, and exposure to multidisciplinary artists flexing their full creative range.

“It’s to everyone’s benefit. It’s to your benefit, to have [our experiences] in your daily experience also, whether you get it at the time or not, because then that normalizes it, and it’s no longer this strange, alien language that you feel like you’re encountering anymore,” Marchandt said.

Like any creative venture planning ahead, TTT adapts to shifting COVID-19 regulations. Along with live events at venues including Imago Theater, Alberta Abbey, and Local Lounge, TTT hosts digital events like streamed performances and 360-degree VR gallery tours. Marchandt says a digital library of recordings will be available by the end of the year, before next year’s submission round opens next January.

Some TTT artists have suffered devastating setbacks leading up to their scheduled events. One artist’s performance was postponed due to a death in the family, while an actor in an upcoming play was recast after a Biden-era Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid.

“We can’t stop people who are going to try to erase us and are somewhat successful, but the more we tell our stories, the harder it is to say we were never here,” Marchandt said.

TTT will culminate with a group exhibition at the Q Center. A Ghanan casket ceremony and New Orleans-style funeral procession are planned for Halloween, celebrating death and its constant presence. After taking a winter holiday break, Marchandt will be back for the festival’s second season. As with the archive, he’s still laying infrastructure to strengthen TTT as an incubator, even if white creative investors fail to learn their lessons.

“We need to build legacies, that’s what arts infrastructure really is,” Marchandt said. “It’s more than ‘I want to put on a show!’ We want something that generates income, protects people, and lasts as long as we can get that to last. How can we protect that? That’s what keeps things from getting basic.”

Tickets​​ can be purchased and tax-deductible donations for Ten, Tiny, Talks can be made through Crave Theatre’s website.