University City: Honoring Stonewall Through the Arts

The nonprofit artist community Da Vinci Art Alliance(DVAA) is collaborating with Lightbox Film Center to bring queer voices to the forefront. The new exhibition, Civil Disobedience: Celebrating Queer Narratives, is currently on display at International House Philadelphia.

The collection of work features 16 contemporary LGBTQ artists chosen by artist and juror Warren Muller. The featured work varies from pieces criticizing the current U.S. government to ones utilizing Grindr imagery, and others depicting growing up closeted. The exhibition was chosen to be shown alongside the film theater’s spring series Queering the Lens. As theater and gallery manager Robert Cargni explained, the programming was intentionally chosen to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots, a series of riots between the queer community and NYPD starting in 1969 after a police raid of the Stonewall Inn.

As discussed by speakers Bryant Girsch (pictured at above), Da Vinci Art Alliance Exhibitions and Programming Director, and Marc Segal, the publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, the sheer act of living an out life as an LGBTQ individual is an act of civil disobedience. On opening night, Segal spoke to the audience about his own participation in the riots which would lead to the creation of the gay liberation movement. Segal spoke about the importance of queer visibility and the strides that have been made over the past five decades since Stonewall and the first Pride Festival in New York.


“We figured that if for any reason whatsoever the media wouldn’t cover us, we’d put them in a position where they’d have to,” Segal said. “And so, today, when I turn on the TV and I see an Anderson Cooper or a Rachel Maddow, I always smile ‘cause I feel like we — the Gay Liberation Front — had something to do with that. Because we turned on the light which ended in visibility.”

After absorbing the artwork, attendees were invited to the screening of “Pink Triangles” a documentary by the Mariposa Film Collective. While the award-winning film addressing homophobia and patterns of oppression was released in 1982, it is still pertinent today, according to Cargni.

“This is perhaps 20 years after Stonewall, but perhaps even 30 years back from where we are now, and yet it’s anchored in a reality that in many ways hasn’t changed,” Cargni (pictured below) said. “That is still being spoken to. In that regard, the film will continue to have cache.”

This is the fifth joint project between the DVAA and Lightbox Film Center. Jarrod Markman, the DVAA’s executive director, believes the combination is a unique one and allows for more introspection.

“So, I think you can see as you, looking back through the exhibition, different contemporary ideas of queerness and how that’s evolved over time. Especially in juxtaposition of the film we must watched,” Markman said.

“Pink Triangles” is only the first of many LGBTQ-centered and -created documentaries to be shown this spring. The films touch on the themes addressed in Civil Disobedience and look into the queer experiences of women, people of color, and non-binary folks. The exhibition will remain open to the public until June 29.

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