The Phillips Collection Salutes Pride: The Spirit of Belonging

Horning Chair for DEAI Yuma Tomes reflects on Pride month.

Pride stands for courage, justice, and most of all love. Pride month began after the Stonewall Uprising, a series of events between police and LGBTQI+ protestors that spanned six days in 1969. While June 28, 1969, was not the first time police raided a gay bar and LGBTQI+ people fought back, the events sparked a six-day movement that fundamentally changed LGBTQ+ activism in the United States. Many activists consider the Stonewall Uprising as the birth of the gay liberation movement. The first Pride march was held on June 28, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

Following the Stonewall riots and the first pride marches, the number of LGBTQI+ groups rapidly increased, and the pride movement spread across the United States. From then to today, there has been groundbreaking legislation and efforts toward the advancement of equality for the LGBTQI+ community in America. Members of the LGBTQI+ community serve openly in all capacities across the country, including as politicians, teachers, pastors. While this progress is and should be celebrated, it is still at risk due to recent anti-LGBTQI+ legislation and tragic events. The Stonewall Rebellion is a touchstone for the modern-day LGBTQI+ rights movement. As we recall the trials the LGBTQI+ community has endured and celebrate the trailblazers who’ve bravely fought for equality, let us recommit to the work that remains.

Visitors with Zilia Sánchez's Lunar works in the Goh Annex Stairwell

Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla exhibition in 2019, Lunar (Moon), 1985, Acrylic on stretched canvas, 71 ½ × 73 ½ × 14 in., Collection of Ignacio J. López Beguiristain and Laura M. Guerra, San Juan; Lunar (Moon), c. 1980, Acrylic on stretched canvas with custom wooden base, 23 × 21 ¾ × 5 in., Collection of Mima and César Reyes, San Juan. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

In the eyes of Duncan Phillips, “seeing differently” was more than a statement, it was a life commitment. The Phillips Collection proudly highlights LGBTQI+ artists in our permanent collection and special exhibitions such as Minor White, Lyle Ashton Harris, Joan Snyder, Keith Vaughan, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Zilia Sánchez to mention a few. Some of their works push the envelope on traditional, majority thinking and awaken creative thought and activism. The Phillips Collection continues to work to thoughtfully acquire and exhibit works by artists who identify as LGBTQI+ in an effort to support the community and build a collection that reflects more inclusive stories. Internally, the staff has participated in Diversity Inter-Dialogue Sessions about LGBTQI+ education and awareness—learning sessions that help ensure that the Phillips remains a safe space for LGBTQI+ individuals. DIDS are focused on strengthening internal linkages on diverse and multicultural topics to better serve visitors and increase collegial belongingness at the Phillips. But there is always more to learn and room to grow. Additionally, the Phillips will have a Pride-themed Phillips after 5 on June 1 to kick-off Pride Month, and will be participating in the annual Capital Pride Festival on June 11—come visit our booth!

Minor White, Dock in Snow, Vermont, 1971, Gelatin silver print, 13 3/4 x 10 3/4 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of the Phillips Contemporaries, 2006

Awareness months are opportunities to deepen our knowledge of and attention to the histories and contemporary experiences of historically marginalized groups like the LGBTQI+ community. However, the focus on celebrating these communities over one month can further marginalize the very experiences we are hoping to elevate. The Phillips Collection honors the commitment and fortitude of LGBTQI+ individuals 365 days a year. I invite our Phillips friends and supporters to engage with important themes raised by Pride Month this June and throughout all of the months of the year.

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