by Mai Geller
On the third Friday of every month, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) opens its doors till midnight, inviting the city to explore the museum well past its regular visiting hours. These “Late Nights,” each embracing a different theme, offer performances of live concerts, film screenings, and other programs set among the permanent exhibits of the DMA and the Nasher Sculpture Center. While museums themselves can often be places of solitude, with visitors keeping to themselves as they take in the surrounding artwork, these Late Nights are full of energy and sound. Droves of people weave between the collections of still-lifes, portraits, jewelry, ceramics, and tapestries. The halls bubble with conversation as works from Frida Kahlo to Claude Monet are observed. Even people who don’t see the appeal of wandering through a museum would be invigorated by the life that accompanies the Dallas community when it enters the DMA in the late hours of the night.
This vibrant atmosphere surfaced again last Friday, June 15th, when the DMA hosted a celebration of LGBTQ arts and culture in honor of National Pride Month. Inside the museum, visitors were handed a schedule packed with events, from a performance by the renowned Turtle Creek Chorale to a children’s book story hour with Drag Queen Cassie Nova.
Outside, groups of families and friends flocked to the food trucks, photo booths, and local businesses who lined the streets. Standing in line for one such photobooth next to the Nasher Sculpture Center, I asked patron Katie Kessler from McKinney what felt special to her about the celebration. She said, “I think on a typical day people would be hesitant to do the things they are doing here, like interacting with their loved ones or their friends. But it’s so open here that I really enjoy it, and I can feel comfortable.”
Kessler compared this pride event to the Pride Prom that she attended at her college: “This [event] is obviously much bigger and more diverse, I think. Also its an older age group so we get to interact with older people that feel the same way we do which is really wonderful.”
Alex Crum, who also stood in line beside Kessler, added, “This is probably my first pride event. I haven’t gone to anything official. I just like how everyone can be openly gay and be partners publicly and not feel afraid or anything.”
On the other side of the Nasher stood muralist and board member for the non-profit organization Arttitude, Lee Madrid. Arttitude aims to unite the LGBTQ+ and diverse community, local artists, and academic researchers, with the goal of inciting positive change and equality for all through art shows. Their vision is to “capture the narratives of marginalized communities in the form of artistic expression.” Visitors were able to color a section of the mural, take a few photos in front of the art, and receive a GIF of their photo series. Madrid shared his idea of the mural, explaining that “Arttitude is celebrating pride because they are focused on underappreciated artists. Whether you are a female or LGBT or of different cultures, we want to give everyone a voice. So the idea [of the mural] is that the colors represents every different type of person and the hands are something we can all look at and know it means love.”
At eleven o’clock, as the evening began to wind down, three actors from the Flexible Grey Theatre Company sat at the entrance of the American Art collection for a final performance of their show, Bridges: LGBTQ+ Then And Now. The Company asked younger generations in the LGBTQ+ community to send in questions they wanted to ask older LGBTQ+ individuals. These older individuals were then interviewed, and their words were compiled into a script that was then performed by actors of Flexible Grey Theatre. I got the chance to speak with the director of the show, Olivia Grace Murphy.
“Personally, I am not interested in theatre as an event, something that you spend a lot of money on a ticket for, get super dressed up, and is exclusive,” said Murphy. “We really want [our show] to be accessible for everyone and I think especially now because we are all millennials in our company, and not a lot of millennials see theatre. Making it accessible and telling the stories that they want to hear — that’s what is meaningful to us.”
She continued, “LGBTQ+ Then And Now aims to bridge the gap between generations of LGBTQ+ individuals. We had LGBTQ+ actors, directors, stage managers, everyone who is involved is gay. We are really aiming to tell these stores to the people who need it. All of our shows are pay what you can, so no one is ever turned away, and all of our stories are focused on gay issues, women, and minorities.”
To conclude the performance, actors shared some final advice from the older LGBTQ+ generation: “We live in a society where there are allegedly two genders. We must be aware that we still live in a society that expects certain things from both those genders. I suggest to you that you become yourself by doing what’s right in this world and within those parameters do your best to make sure that everyone is included. Participate in the community at large. Don’t be afraid, and don’t let anyone tell you that anything is impossible.”
After a night of joy and celebration, there is a certain sadness in having to leave the Dallas Museum of Art after one of its Late Nights. However, if one thing is clear, it is that the sense of community, love, and progress fostered by the DMA for National Pride Month will last well past midnight. •
Mai Geller is a sophomore at the University of Texas double majoring in Plan II Honors and Marketing. She has been on the Spark Social Media Team for the last year and recently joined as a blogger. In her spare time, you can find her listening to Leandra Medine’s podcast “Monocycle” or stalking the Instagram account of John Mulaney’s french bulldog, Petunia.