For decades, art has been a safe space where LGBTQ+ ideas, subjects and images could be freely and openly explored. It has long been an outlet for queer liberation and the community’s fight for equality and justice. In late summer, the Human Rights Campaign was given the special opportunity to partner with Hopscotch, an immersive and interactive art and technology experience in San Antonio, Texas, to curate an art installation that represents not just the beautiful diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, but also casts an inclusive vision for the future.
The limited-time exhibit titled GAZE transports guests into a world that encourages them to see beyond their own experience and into a future that embraces love and acceptance for all; rainbow colors shine through designs etched into acrylic panels illuminated by a programmatic array of LED lights. The subtly shifting colors make for an ever-changing and layered experience that mirrors the ever-changing exterior world. To make the experience even more individualized, the installation will change over time, reflecting the constantly evolving nature of progress as an integral part of an interactive experience.
“Changing hearts and minds is the first step toward advancing equality — reaching people through art and interactive experiences is an innovative way of directly connecting to communities,” said Kelli Stam, Human Rights Campaign senior vice president of marketing & partnerships. “This partnership with Hopscotch is an exciting opportunity to creatively portray different aspects of our community’s experiences, and I am hopeful this installation will shine a rainbow light on the beauty of the LGBTQ+ community.”
HRC’s partnership with Hopscotch hits close to home for Nicole Jensen, Hopscotch Co-Founder, LGBTQ+ community member, and longtime HRC volunteer. Jensen serves as the Austin Federal Club Co-Chair and lives happily with her wife.
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and longtime high-level volunteer for HRC, this partnership aligns my personal and professional worlds in a way that I am so proud of, it is hard to put it into words,” said Jensen. “So many of us have struggled for so long to be our true selves in professional environments, to now be in a position as a business owner to have the opportunity to actively lead and move equality forward in this way means so much to me—I want everyone to feel the power of love and inclusion at Hopscotch and am thrilled that this unique partnership can help do that in any way.”
Our collaboration with Hopscotch is only the latest artwork in a long and influential line of queer creative pieces that have played an integral part in showcasing the LGBTQ+ experience. When the community felt empowered to come out of the shadows after the revolutionary Stonewall Inn uprising, artists in the 1970s portrayed LGBTQ+ subjects with an unprecedented openness.
Before Stonewall, it was illegal to depict same-sex nudity, but the emerging sexual revolution gave way for the emergence of photography to be a critical vehicle for propelling gay and lesbian visibility. Photographers like Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar and Bill Jacobson turned their cameras onto their LGBTQ+ friends, lovers, and nightlife in incredibly intimate moments only previously witnessed by those in the community.
In the mid-1980s, as the AIDS epidemic ravaged the LGBTQ+ community and the Reagan administration failed to respond to the crisis, an artist named Donald Moffett decided it was critical to take direct action by designing an incredibly poignant and impactful piece called “He Kills Me.” The artwork depicts an orange and black target next to a headshot of a smirking Reagan with the title text printed below. The piece was plastered on almost every building in New York City and was a catalyst in sparking a national conversation about the AIDS crisis.
Since the queer artistic awakening emerged all those decades ago, a more diverse group of LGBTQ+ artists exploring the many facets of identity, and holding multiply marginalized identities, have entered the scene. With more diverse and equitable subjects, came innovative and cutting edge mediums of the artwork itself — that is why HRC is so immensely proud to now be a part of this modern form of art, while also honoring and paying deference to the groundbreaking queer artists of the past.