Avant guard came to Fort Lauderdale Thursday night with the appearance of a living legend from the New York underground.

Susanne Bartsch held court for over an hour, offering advice for fashionistas, answering questions from an engaged audience and displaying big hair. Bartsch, advertised as NYC’s patron saint of transformation and inclusion, advocated for free expression.

“I give platforms for people to express themselves,” said Bartch, dressed in white for the panel discussion. “I love expressing myself, being myself, I want you to be yourself and let’s party on!”

Tyler Oakley, a video maker with a large social media following, moderated the panel featuring Bartsch and The Misshapes. The foursome chatted in front of a colorful, scrapbook-like designed set under the hashtag, #LoveTravels.

When Oakley asked if sexuality or gender should be an overriding factor when operating a nightclub, the answer was a resounding no.

“You put out what you want to receive,” said Geordon Nicol of The Misshapes, a DJ collective. “As annoying as a bachelorette party can be…at a gay club, you know what just be happy you’re at a place where all these people want to be. Don’t complain. We’ve reached a great point. Don’t fuck up a good thing.”

Added Bartsch, “I enjoy the mixing. Love unites.”

SFGN interviewed three locals following the panel discussion. Michael Mendillo, the Director of Development for the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, said the dialogue was important.

“It was such a great connection between art and LGBTQ identity,” Mendillo said. “Definitely working for the chorus we’re always trying to bridge that gap between the non-LGBT community about who we are and try to inspire hearts and change minds. All of these people are doing this in their own special way. I thought it was really cool to exchange ideas and talk about how we can best move forward and be ourselves.”

Gregory O’Timmer held a clipboard as he mingled with the crowd inside a local hotel. O’Timmer attended the event with his fiancé and colleagues from Latinos Salud, a South Florida HIV/AIDS service organization. O’Timmer said he enjoyed the gathering of creative people.

“It was a way for me to get into the mind of individuals that create one of the biggest and best parties on the earth,” O’Timmer said. “Where people can come together, all inclusive, gay, straight, whoever you are you can come and express yourself and I got to see the insight of those who create those parties. I thought it was a really great way to see what they’ve done for our community and how we’re able to come together in one place and discuss all of this.”

For Casey Koslowski, a Fort Lauderdale realtor, the event was a big boost to the area.

“I was impressed with the caliber of the panel,” Koslowski said. “To have that type of caliber people in South Florida during the off season and with standing room only, I’m pleasantly surprised.”