Shannon Novak is an artist, curator, activist, and the Founder and Director of the Safe Space Alliance.
Novak began working with LGBTQI+ communities at the age of 16 in 1995 in rural New Zealand by co-founding the LGBTQI+ youth group “Bent”. It was during a time consumer level internet was emerging so LGBTQI+ youth had very few avenues to turn to for confidential support.
Through this experience, Novak recognised the value of art and education as critical success factors in growing support for LGBTQI+ communities so pursued a career in adult education in parallel with an art ongoing practice.
In 2019, Novak co-founded the Conversion Therapy Action Group (CTAG), a group working to ban conversion therapy in New Zealand, a ban achieved in 2022. Having lost a partner who had been through conversion therapy, Novak’s focus was on establishing support systems for conversion therapy survivors and their loved ones, something he continues to work on today.
In 2021, Novak launched the Make Visible project, a LGBTQI+ community led project that aims to grow support for LGBTQI+ communities worldwide by making visible challenges and triumphs for these communities. Novak developed this project as his contribution to The 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT10) in 2021 at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The project is ongoing, manifesting as art based LGBTQI+ led interventions globally.
In 2023, Novak established the Lavender Tech Project, a project that aims to grow safety in relationships between LGBTQI+ communities and emerging technologies. This ongoing project developed from Novak’s research into the ethical implications and challenges between AI (artificial intelligence) and LGBTQI+ communities. Novak also led the reclassification of some indecent/restricted LGBTQI+ publications under the defunct Indecent Publications Act 1963 (New Zealand) to “unrestricted”.
Novak’s ongoing work aims to reduce anxiety, depression, and suicide rates for LGBTQI+ communities worldwide. He seeks to dismantle heteronormative structures and systems and build spaces that acknowledge, celebrate, and support diversity and inclusion in sexual orientation, romantic orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics (SROGIESC+). This manifests as socially engaged and collaborative work that explores light and dark in the past, present, and future, but ultimately seeks to grow hope for a better world where LGBTQI+ communities can live without fear. Central to Novak’s collaborative process is an attitude of respect and care. Key areas of focus in his work include LGBTQI+ activism, centering LGBTQI+ BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities, and illuminating, preserving, and sharing LGBTQI+ history.
The Safe Space Volunteer Network (SSVN) forms a core part of our team and is made up of volunteers who work hard to help identify, navigate, and create safe spaces for LGBTQI+ communities worldwide.
If you would like to join the network and volunteer your time no matter how small or big we would love to hear from you. We welcome all skill sets from all locations in the world.