May 31, 2022 - News

Hundreds of LGBTQ+ art pieces flood Detroit galleries for Pride Month

A person sits slumped over a table in a scanned painting.
"Hopeless," by Bakpak Durden. Courtesy of Mighty Real/Queer Detroit

More than 700 works from LGBTQ+ artists are being displayed across 17 galleries for what organizers are calling the largest-ever community-led exhibition of its kind.

Driving the news: Nonprofit Mighty Real/Queer Detroit's series commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first Detroit pride rally, creative director and curator Patrick Burton tells Axios.

  • You'll see work from 150 LGBTQ+ artists — around 75% Detroit residents — that explore sexual identity, gender, Black LGBTQ+ experiences and more.
  • Pieces range from never-before-seen private collection items to work that's for sale from emerging artists.

If you go: Mighty Real kicks off with a reception Thursday and gallery openings Friday. Events continue through June.

What they're saying: "Over the past 77 years, the richness of Detroit Queer life, as expressed in art, has developed in unseen and diverse ways," Burton writes in an essay to be published with a catalogue of Mighty Real artists.

  • "Today, achieving self-expression is still an effort, still a battle of confidence against uncertainty. That battle is something all people can understand."
Two portraits are shown side by side.
A portrait of activist Ruth Ellis (left) and a self-portrait, both by LeRoy Foster. Courtesy of Mighty Real/Queer Detroit

Zoom in: Each venue has a theme. Galerie Camille's in the Cass Corridor is "In the Life," curator Dalia Reyes says.

  • It centers on work that isn't overtly gay but alludes to LGBTQ+ life — something often done as a means of expression amid censorship and discrimination.
  • Work displayed there will include 1940s drawings from the journals of Detroit painter LeRoy Foster.
  • "This is really one of the most unifying kinds of exhibitions we've ever had," Reyes says of the art community's involvement in the planning process.

Between the lines: Burton, a Detroit native, originally planned the show for 2020 with a couple galleries. After pandemic delays, it snowballed into a much bigger effort.

  • The exhibition has financial buy-in from the city's arts and culture office, the Ford Foundation, the College for Creative Studies, Kresge Arts and others.

Meanwhile, other pride celebrations in the metro area include an exhibition exploring gender in Ann Arbor, Ferndale Pride on Saturday, Motor City Pride from June 11-12 and Hotter Than July from July 15-17.

A multi-medium art piece is shown with portraits dotted across it.
"Sweet Child Asha We Still Sing You Lullabies," by Anthony Smith Jr. Courtesy of Mighty Real/Queer Detroit
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