MICHIGAN CITY — For Kane Fletcher, curating an exhibit of LGBTQ+ art is about more than just featuring paintings and media by LGBTQ+ artists and their allies.
It’s about showing where the community has come since the Stonewall riots 50 years ago, which helped give birth to the modern LGBTQ+ movement.
“We’re not hiding anymore,” Fletcher said. “It’s about being out. Being proud. With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, [back in 1969, members of the LGBTQ community] had to hide in a small gay night club just to be themselves. And it’s pretty much you can be yourself anywhere now.”
Titled “Out in Color,” the exhibit – opening Friday, Nov. 1, from 5-9 p.m. at Artspace at 717 Franklin St. in Michigan City – will feature paintings, photography and other media work from 10 local artists. The event will also have performance art with an all-ages drag show performed by the Michigan City-based Welcome to the Other Side starting at 7 p.m.
The free event is all-ages and open to the public. A cash bar will be available.
Kane’s wife, Nicole, who is co-curating the event, said they wanted to show what Michigan City had to offer in the LGBTQ+ community. The exhibit is organized by color, with darker themes and colors in the front, and more hopeful, and colorful, work as you reach the back room where the drag queens will perform.
“We are trying to highlight a vibrant, thriving community,” she said. “And people have preconceived notions about drag. It’s really just a form of entertainment; an expression of art.”
The couple will also have works in the show. Kane’s will feature a series of pieces created by painting his face and pressing it into a series of different canvases. The paintings show a variety of distortions and colors.
“This is how I view myself now, as more of a person,” he said, referring to one of the works. “The others are like my internal turmoil of trying to figure out who I am, figuring out there was nothing wrong with me, and the journey between the two once I figured out who I was.”
Michigan City PFLAG will also be at the exhibit Friday, seeking donations for their third annual summer pride event.
And there will be an 8-by-24-foot banner highlighting major, impactful pictures from the Stonewall riots, Kane said. It will be the backdrop before which the drag queens will perform, so their vibrant colors will contrast significantly with the more somber colors of the past turmoil.
According to a June 29 Associated Press article, the Stonewall riots began after police raided NYC’s Stonewall Inn bar in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. The nightspot was unlicensed, and officers had been assigned to stop any illegal alcohol sales. Bars often lost liquor licenses for serving LGBTQ customers.
Patrons and people who converged on the bar on Christopher Street resisted, hurling objects and, at times, scuffling with the officers. Protests followed over several more days.
According to Kane, the community has come a long way since then – just look at where drag shows are performed now.
“So a lot of people think that drag shows happen at gay bars,” he explained. “And back in the day, that’s exactly what happened. It was just in gay bars. Well, in Michigan City, none of these places that these drag queens are performing in are gay bars. These are regular restaurants and bars and bowling alleys that they’re coming to. And that would never have happened years ago.”
Despite the connection to Stonewall, Kane said he wants Friday’s event to be a safe space for everyone.
“You don’t have to be in the LGBT community,” he said. “If you feel different or excluded for any reason, then this is a safe space that night for anybody who wants to come.
"I want the younger generation to know that we’ve made leaps and bounds and we are going to continue to grow. And I wanted to have it in Michigan City because we’ve had two pride events here now. We’re evolving, every which direction, and I want to keep it going.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report
Out in Color artists include:
• Sopiap Dok
• Tim Perry
• Jake Lawless
• Kazi Delicious
• Nicole Fletcher
• Kane Fletcher
• Maidena Young
• Patricia Howard