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Pride art creates LGBTQ+ visibility in rural northern Michigan

spray paint cans sit on a floor that has been painted with a rainbow of color in a striped pattern
Up North Pride organized three outdoor interactive art exhibits in northern Michigan to create visibility and bring people together.

Pride month creates visibility and community for people on a spectrum of sexuality.

And now, art exhibits are showing up in rural communities in Northern Michigan to bring people together.

This experience is audio reactive. Take a minute to let it out.

Those are some of the first words that appear when you enter the art exhibit at the Farm Club.

It’s a storage container. It’s dark inside with a projector that lights up white text on a black background with phrases you are encouraged to say out loud.

“I am proud.”

A rainbow of color echoes out from the words in front of you. The louder you are, the more color you can see.

“I can do this!”

A local production company set up the projector and effects inside, while Heather Spooner painted the outside with geometric shapes and colors from the Diversity Pride flag.

This is one of three interactive storage container art exhibits that Up North Pride is putting on with this year's theme of “Catharsis”.

In the middle of the mural, there is the white outline of a cicada.

The white outline of a cicada sits in the middle of geometric shapes and colors from the Diversity Pride flag.
Artist Heather Spooner created a mural featuring a cicada to symbolize the growth that can happen when you let go of past baggage.

“As a cicada can shed its shell,” says Spooner, “My wish for this exhibit is that people could come and kinda shed the weight they carry. Whether they are members of the queer community or not.”

She hopes that as you repeat the positive affirmations inside the container that it helps you let go of past baggage.

“So that when you emerge from the container, much like a cicada emerges from its shell, you'd be a little softer and you could grow.”

Another Up North Pride exhibit is being displayed at the Iron Fish distillery in Thompsonville.

Joey Salamon is the artist. His storage container opens like a breadbox and is adorned with rainbow multi color patterns on the wall and floors.

He says he wanted his exhibit to become a “selfie station” and a celebration of the theme.

A pattern of colors repeating in random patterns. Tires that have been painted complementing colors are sitting nearby. Spray-paint cans are sitting on the floor in a group.
Muralist Joey Salamon painted a multi-colored "selfie station" to encourage visitors express their individuality.

“Be very bold in who you are and what you represent and who you are in yourself...Don’t hide exactly what you want to be and who you are. And to me, that’s cathartic. There's nothing cathartic about being repressed.”

He says because he grew up outside of Midland, he is drawn to creating LGBTQ+ visibility in other rural locations.

“Growing up as a gay kid in this kinda landscape,” Says Salamon, “I mean, there was nothing. And so just the fact that there is something here for anyone to see or recognize, that's huge.”

Up North Pride isn’t the only organization hosting an art exhibit to mark this year's Pride Month.

The Ludington Area Center for the Arts in Mason County is partnering for a second year with West Shore Pride for an art show. West Shore Pride President Renee Snodgrass came up with the initial idea.

“I hope that brings to light that there are LGBTQ people here, even if you don’t necessarily know that just by looking at them.”

The show is made up of work from local LGBTQ+ artists. It’s got about 25 pieces from 10 artists.

“So I made a vase,” says Snodgrass, “and my girlfriend made a goblet with a hognose snake wrapped around it.”

A goblet with a orange-yellow hognose snake decoration is wrapped around it.
Sara Prussing made this goblet with her girlfriend for the exhibit at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

A series of photos highlight pets at prior pride events.

Another shows how the beach can go from red sand to deep blue water with all the colors in-between.

And an anonymous poem highlights an internal struggle of sexuality reconciling with religion.

Visibility and finding community is important, says Up North Pride spokesperson, Nick Viox.

“Oftentimes in Northern Michigan, it's very easy to feel alone and feel that you have nobody to lean on or talk to or nobody that's part of your community. But, Pride allows you to find your chosen family, and to feel together. That's a feeling we want to create more of in Northern Michigan.”

That’s why Up North pride will be hosting a meet and greet at each of their locations.

The exhibits are at Stormcloud Brewing in Frankfort, Iron Fish Distillery in Thompsonville and at Farm Club outside downtown Traverse City.

The LGBTQ+ Art Show at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts will be open to the public until June 26th.