NSU Art Museum's "A Sense of Pride" Symposium Spotlights Queer Artists and Activists of Color

Kia LaBeija

A symposium at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale is bringing together established and emerging LGBTQ+ artists to explore issues of queer identity and representation in art through panel discussions and conceptual performances. The day-long event also invites activists and curators to explore the role of LGBTQ+ art in America's HIV/AIDS crisis, and to spotlight the role of queer artists in bringing attention to these issues through their work.

Sebastian Perez, NSU Art Museum's associate education curator, says it was necessary to create these conversations not only within the LGBTQ+ community but throughout South Florida at large. The symposium is part of the museum's "A Sense of Pride" initiative, which connects the LGBTQ+ community through programs fostering acceptance, inclusion, and understanding, says Perez.

NSU's symposium will consist of two panels and a performance section featuring nationally-renowned and local artists. Participants include Rosemarie Romero, creator of traveling queer-feminist nail salon Porn Nail$; Dr. Requel Lopes, director of Wilton Manors' World AIDS Museum and Education Center (the first of its kind); and artist Roberto Navarrete, who will perform a ritualistic healing practice in response to intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community.

One panel discussion, titled "The New Identities: Queer Black and Latin-X Artists in America," will host artists Naima Green, Roberto Navarrete, GeoVanna Gonzalez, and Najja Moon. The artists identify as queer individuals of color and will touch upon issues of identity, representation, and race, and the ways in which these identities intersect and affect their place within the LGBTQ+ community.

"[The panel's title is] a bit tongue-in-cheek, because [these] are not new identities. These identities come and go through history... It's almost like people can reappropriate their identity and be proud," Perez says. "One thing we see in the art world is this rise and interest in the voice of POC. We can't help but love what we're seeing and add to the development that's going on, but we do see black and LatinX artists — and it's not like the work is being copied or reappropriated. This is their work, and this is their voice, and we get to hear it."

For Perez, who has been involved in more of the museum's queer-focused programming, the mission is to showcase the pride within Broward's diverse communities and to educate the public. The museum's upcoming program, "A Sense of Pride: African American and Caribbean LGBTQ+ Communities," will focus on the Haitian and Caribbean LGBTQ+ experience while highlighting the spiritual conceptualizations and social realities the communities face both in the U.S. and the on the islands.

"We have the second gayest city in the country, which is Wilton Manors per capita, but once you go outside of Wilton Manors and any other county in the country, you don't have that support system of that sense of pride within the community or that representation," Perez says. "For us, it was so simple to do this. The art community is known to accept the deviants or the eccentric. We want to show the community that we're a cultural institution that opens the doors to everyone."

A Sense of Pride Symposium: Visual Activists and New Identities. 11 a.m. Saturday, May 18 at NSU Art Museum, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free with RSVP via nsuartmuseum.org.