By Patric Stillman
Near the entrance of San Diego Pride’s festival, a unique beacon shines revealing the heart of our community through multiple expressions of artistry. Art of Pride, a volunteer cooperative of LGBTQ+ artists and allies, has been at the forefront of showcasing the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ artists and the artwork they create for nearly two decades.
The Genesis: Lighting the Spark of Diversity
Art of Pride’s story is a testament to the power of creativity and the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. It all began with a passion for art as San Diego Pride was approached by Judith Forman, better known as “Judy the Beauty on Duty” of The Big Kitchen, advocating for festival space that shines a light of individual creativity.
A year later, John Keasler stepped up as Co-Chair not realizing that he would become one of the driving forces behind Art of Pride for 17 years. “I came to California to pursue the arts,” he says. “In 1975 after tours with the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Europe, and finishing college, I decided to make San Diego my home.”
John’s journey led him to activism, where he became involved with LGBTQ veterans and the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, his artistic yearnings never faded. He got involved with one of the first LGBT+ art nonprofits, AIDS Art Aliveunder the guidance of Richard “Dick” Green, a retired City architect who shared John’s love for art. That organization ran a drop-in arts studio for people living with HIV and AIDS for nearly nine years, fostering creativity and community. Eventually, John found himself heading up the Bard Hall Art Guild at the First Unitarian Church, where he met Molly Kellogg, a professional artist who reignited his artistic aspirations.
Under his guidance, Art of Pride extended beyond the festival to hold gallery exhibitions, sketch parties, and artists meet-ups. It even inspired a spin-off in Palm Springs at their own Pride festival. Two years ago, the volunteer collective was officially named as an official program under San Diego Pride and given a staff advisor, Nicole Verdes.
Jackie Han, Co-Chair for Art of Pride, emphasizes the importance of this role, saying, “Nicole has been wonderful in giving us the agency to riff off of each other and learn more.” As San Diego Pride’s grant writer, Verdes plays a crucial role in Art of Pride’s operations. Their work helps bridge partnerships and secure resources for the organization’s initiatives.
Jackie Han is a passionate photographer and mixed media artist who began her journey into Art of Pride by volunteering for the “Images of Pride” show in 2022. Little did she know that this initial involvement would lead to a deeper commitment. “I had some extra free time, and I wanted to help my community,” she explains. After hanging the show, Jackie and John connected, and the rest is history.
A Community Blossoms: The Power of Inclusivity
Art of Pride is more than just an art organization; it’s a vibrant, diverse community. It operates under the mission “as a volunteer cooperative of LGBTQIA+ artists and allies centering on the diverse experiences of LGBTQIA+ artists and the artwork they create. Art of Pride highlights and celebrates the spectrum of artists of color, women artists, transgender, non-binary, sex artists, as well as intergenerational art. Together through our art, we foster community connections.”
Art of Pride’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity has been its guiding light. It’s not just about showcasing art but creating a space where artists from all backgrounds can thrive. The organization actively seeks to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ artists, ensuring they have the recognition they deserve. They enjoyed supporting emerging artists who may not have had the platform to display their work in traditional galleries or museums.
A Vision for the Future: Education and Collaboration
As Art of Pride looks to the future, its vision extends beyond exhibitions. They aspire to create more space for creatives. They believe in empowering artists not only to create but also to navigate the complex world of art, including pricing their work and seeking grant opportunities.
Jackie Han shares her vision, “I would love to see Art of Pride evolve around education and create workshops or educational spaces for artists.” These workshops would provide invaluable insights into the business side of art, helping emerging artists build successful careers.
John Keasler agrees and adds “I think an online portal would be great that could include local resources as well as keeping note of the previous LGBTQ artists and making sure they’re still remembered.”
Art of Pride is committed to fostering a sense of community among LGBTQ+ artists. They actively engage with previous participants and artists, ensuring they remain connected to the organization’s mission. “I think keeping note of the previous LGBTQ artists and making sure they’re still thought of and remembered is crucial,” emphasizes Jackie.
A Resounding Impact: Artists Who Shine
Throughout its history, Art of Pride has been a platform for San Diego artists to shine, and many have indeed left a lasting impact. Notable artists like Andre Rushing, Molly Kellogg, and Kelly Standard have graced Art of Pride’s exhibitions with their remarkable work.
• Andre Rushing (http://andrearushingfinearts.com/), internationally renowned for his realistic portraits that shed light on our collective humanity, is one standout artist who exhibited with Art of Pride. His work has garnered widespread recognition including having work exhibited at the United States National Rotunda and United Nations. He teaches art classes at San Diego Art Academy.
• Molly Kellogg (https://www.molliekellogg.com/), Keasler’s co-facilitator at the First Unitarian Church and professional artist, transitioned from San Diego to the East Coast, where she continues to sell her art. Her journey from Art of Pride is a testament to the organization’s role in nurturing talent.
• Kelly Paige Standard (Instagram @kpstandardart), a figurative painter, made a mark in Art of Pride’s early years. Her work continues to thrive, reflecting her creative brilliance.
Art of Pride: A Beacon for the Future
Art of Pride’s journey has been one of artistic exploration, community building, and inclusivity. Its commitment to showcasing the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ artists has created a vibrant and supportive space within San Diego’s art scene.
As Art of Pride continues to evolve and expand its reach, it remains a vital force in promoting the arts, diversity, and LGBTQ+ visibility in San Diego and beyond.
The current Images of Pride exhibition continues through December 1st at the San Diego Pride Offices in North Park.
Art of Pride can be found online on San Diego Pride’s websites at https://sdpride.org/art and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/93161083192