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Monday, June 17, 2024

The Harn Museum Nights: Art + Pride celebrates LGBTQ artists and local community

The museum displayed artworks with an LGBTQ spotlight

<p>The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida tabled at the Museum Night offering Pride flags among other items on Thursday, June 8, 2023.</p><p><br/><br/><br/><br/></p>

The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida tabled at the Museum Night offering Pride flags among other items on Thursday, June 8, 2023.





As children ran past the rows of tables set up in the foyer of the Harn Museum, their parents chatted and fixed plates of pasta salad and mini hamburgers. Volunteers excitedly distributed maps detailing the night’s different exhibitions. Rainbow flags hung from the hands and purses of many guests. 

This month, the Harn Museum chose “Art + Pride” as the theme for its monthly nighttime community event, Museum Nights.  

Organizations supporting women, people of color and LGBTQ people were invited to educate and connect with the museum-goers.

The Harn Museum partnered with eight local organizations for the June 8 event, including The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida; UF Center for Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement; UF Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Beyond the Binary; TranQuility; Malcom Randall VA Medical Center; UF Counseling and Wellness Center and the Alachua County Library District. 

Michelle Lingkop, a consultation referral team member at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center, said her organization tabled this event to let them know about its services. 

“If they’re students, what we offer at the center, also what’s in the local community for folks that may not be a part of the University.” Lingkop said. 

Allysa Peyton, 46, has worked at the Harn for the past 15 years and coordinated the event. 

“We are definitely in celebration mode,” Peyton said. 

The DJ played upbeat party music and families danced to it — beats and footsteps echoing throughout the museum. Attendees weren't afraid to express themselves, wearing rainbow clothes, fun animal ears, tutus and unicorn onesies. 

They admired the artworks surrounding them while enjoying the atmosphere. 

Kehinde Wiley’s work was especially celebrated at the event. In 2008, while Wiley was still up-and-coming, the museum bought one of his works, “Dogon Couple,” which is on display in the Mary Ann Harn Cofrin Pavillion. 

Thomas Logan, 76, became a Harn docent, someone who’s studied art and gives tours, last year. He traveled across the world to explore art, and he received training to attain his current volunteer role. 

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Wiley grew up in Los Angeles, Logan said, but found home in his African heritage, which later impacted his art.

Wiley is also gay, and his identity plays into his work. The two traditionally masculine subjects on the painting “Dogon Couple”, which he chose for his piece, are posed to resemble an 18th century Malian sculpture of a man and a woman. At first glance, the average viewer would assume these are two friends, maybe even brothers, but by understanding Wiley’s background, the piece represents much more.

The traditional Malian sculpture which Wiley based his painting off of represents the role of a man and woman in a relationship. Instead, he transformed the couple into a same-sex couple. One of the men is wearing a soccer jersey from Senegal, a country considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world for queer people.

His sexuality is not necessarily the forefront of the painting, but there are queer influences added, Logan said. 

The painting represents a larger message of the night: queer influence which is not always brought to the attention of viewers.  

Contact Leia Ulrich at lulrich@alligator.org.

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