After years of legalizing gay marriage and advocating for the use of gendered pronouns at one’s choice, states across the country are participating in a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws and acts, specifically targeting queer, trans youth.
In the midst of this upheaval, this year’s Pride Month contextualizes the importance of events to raise queer visibility for an opportunity at solidarity. This year, Spokane Arts’ pride events begin with the third annual Queer Art Walk on Friday coinciding with First Friday.
Andrew Whitver, the creator of the Queer Art Walk, grew up as an openly gay man in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Witnessing the vast number of his friends’ deaths propelled him into the political queer landscape.
“I’ve always been a queer activist, so there’s never been a time where we didn’t have to fight for ourselves,” Whitver said. “Visibility has always been important. It shows people we’re here, and it makes people feel safe … being queer and being out, all of that is always political.”
Whitver established the Capitol Hill Queer Art Walk when living in Seattle, and when he moved to Spokane in 2017, he found a similar need to unite the pockets of queer communities throughout the city.
“(Now) Spokane is the first city in Washington state to have a citywide Queer Art Walk, which is a big deal,” Whitver said.
Whitver has relocated to the Midwest, so he called on Spokane Arts executive director Melissa Huggins to pull off this year’s walk.
“She really felt that is was important that Spokane continued to do this,” Whitver said. “Real kudos are for Melissa Huggins, who is an amazing arts advocate, an amazing human being (who) was willing to add one more thing to Spokane Arts’ plate.”
With 10 organizations set to host queer artists at participating venues, this year’s art walk is the biggest yet. Participating venues include the Chase Gallery at Spokane’s City Hall, Yes Is a Feeling, Dean Davis Studios and other downtown businesses such as First Avenue Coffee and Common Language Brewing Co.
Tiffany Peterson designed a map that specifies galleries, sculptures, venues and murals across the city for this year’s Queer Art Walk.
With the help of Spokane artist Shantell Jackson, who serves as Spokane Arts’ program art director, new community organizations have become first-time participants such as Gonzaga University and Spectrum, Spokane’s LGBTQ+ advocacy group.
“I always wondered why queer-led organizations don’t collaborate and why they work in their own silos even though Spokane Arts isn’t a queer organization,” Jackson said. “So, I reached out to Spectrum’s center to see if they were interested in collaborating, so this year I am excited to have that collaboration and that partnership.”
Jackson, who identifies as a lesbian, found that the lack of connection between the Queer Art Walk and Spectrum was a concern of community outreach. To close out the Queer Art Walk, Spectrum and Gonzaga University Urban Art Center will host open-mic night at their downtown location at 7 p.m. Friday.
Jackson said there is also a need to introduce and platform newer voices to the Spokane art scene. “Being able to make those connections, and have new queer voices, queer creativity come to the table and share and reflect their artistry is really exciting, too,” Jackson said.
An opening ceremony for the Chase Gallery’s featured artists Margaret Mount and Shawn Parks will be held from 4-7 p.m. Friday. Along with mixed-media art work from Laura Light, the show will remain open all of June.
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