Two New Denver Art Exhibitions Celebrate LGBTQ History and Culture

As Denver continues to celebrate Pride this year — two new art exhibitions have opened just in time to commemorate Denver’s LGBT history. Both located at McNichols Civic Center Building, one exhibit — titled “Queer City of the Plains” — explores past and present narratives from Denver’s LGBT community. The other gallery — titled “Lavender Mist” — focuses on some of Colorado’s most influential contemporary artists who also happen to be gay men. The exhibitions opened in late May and run through August.

“Queer City of the Plains” explores both the history of Colorado’s queer scene as well as the community’s culture and art. Local historian David Duffield — who manages the Colorado LGBTQ History Project — wrote a narrative for the show and divided Colorado’s queer history into four installations. The four parts each represent different eras and time frames. A fifth installation in the exhibition delves into the history of the rainbow flag and was put together by historian Genevieve Waller. Along with these five distinct installations — “Queer City of the Plains” features artwork by artists within the LGBT community.

Brendan Picker is the public art program administrator for the City and County of Denver and helped put together the exhibition.

“I asked contemporary artists to participate who I thought were creating dynamic artwork and also self-identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer,” Picker said. “I also wanted to have a diverse mix of artists, with different backgrounds and life experiences, but also in the type of work they produce.”

The artists featured include Jonathan Saiz, Adri Norris, Secret Love Collective, Steven Frost and Brian Corrigan. The works on display by these artists are indeed diverse and each offer unique perspectives. The gallery features miniature paintings by Jonathan Saiz, art highlighting women in World War II by Adri Norris and a handwoven pride flag by Steven Frost.

You can also find facts about Colorado’s LGBT history scattered around the gallery. While exploring the exhibition, you will even stumble across a pair of blue tennis shoes. They belonged to Governor Jared Polis — the first openly gay governor in the United States.

Miniature paintings by Jonathan Saiz.

While viewing “Queer City of the Plains,” take a detour to the second floor — where you will find “Lavender Mist” — which celebrates art by prominent Colorado artists who are all gay men. Lovers of contemporary art will surely find this show intriguing. The curators of this collection note that unlike feminist or Chicano artists — the artwork of gay men usually does not share similar themes. This means that this show features a wide array of art. Despite this — many of the works still feature characteristics of the gay identity — such as the struggle for acceptance and the resistance towards homophobia.

Art by Wes Hempel.

McNichols Civic Center Building is hosting a number of events related to the exhibition. You can take a tour of both exhibitions on Facebook Live on June 26 and July 10 with the curators of the show. There will also be videos of an artist panel discussion and a flag making workshop that will be posted to the McNichols Civic Center Building website. If COVID-19 restrictions allow — there will also be a closing party scheduled for August 14.

“The artists, historians and I are so grateful to have had the opportunity to share these stories and these artworks with the public,” Picker said. “We truly hope the community can come out to see it in person, with the health and safety precautions in place.”

If you would like to see the shows in person, reservations must be made through the online portal at least 24 hours in advance. More information about the exhibitions as well as virtual tours can be found here. The shows are open through August 30 and the exhibitions are available in English and Spanish. McNichols Civic Center Building is located at 144 W Colfax Ave. 

All photos by Barbara Urzua.