DEI: Pride Month 2021

June is Pride Month which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots and recognizes the impact of LGBTQ+ people have had in the world. As we reflect on the history of Pride and the impact made by activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, we celebrate the work of today’s advocates of equality and members of the LGBTQ+ community — near and far. Hear the stories of local LGBTQ+ community members and learn more about their impact on our city.

Colleen Maynard is a visual artist, writer, and arts administrator. She was awarded a 2019 “Let Creativity Happen” award from Houston Arts Alliance and the City of Houston, and was selected for the research exhibition collaborative “Visual Pathology” with University of Texas Medical Branch and Galveston Art Center in 2018. Her work has appeared in places such as “Spectral Lines” Anthology (Alternating Current Press), Cold Mountain Review, and Sand Journal. She studied writing and painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.

What does being part of the LGBTQ+ community mean to you? 

Getting to be around and in dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community can be deeply restful and creative. We tend to be scrappy, punky, determined nerds and weirdos. We’ve pushed against assumptions made early on for us, whether that’s gender or sexuality or being required to fit in one box only. And I have to believe the queer community of 2021 is more informed, more integrated, and more openminded than ever as we keep working together for progress, unity, and safety.

What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

First, a reuniting with a poetry group in a city I used to live in — thanks to technology and lovely people determined to forge community come hell or high water! Second, at some point in the last year I realized I have only been reading LGBTQ+ writers, mostly for a sense of much-needed “they get me” comfort. I especially appreciate writers who aren’t pandering to a queer-curious heteronormative/cisgender base, but just writing their socks off because it’s how they process the world. Danez Smith, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Torey Peters, Jericho Brown, Bryan Washington, Audrey Lorde, Carmen Maria Machado, and Imogene Binnie are a few I’ve recently been sinking into. I’ve been considering reading exclusively queer fiction and poetry as long as I can in the future.

What’s next on the horizon?

More play! I have plans of sculpting, painting, and collaging more, collaborating more, traveling again. While my drawings stay fully focused on a pre-anthropocene or human-absent set of species like coral, echinoderms, and bryozoans, I’m drawn to writing about the messiness of humans. I’ve been returning to poetry after a long jag of flash fiction. I have less patience for the exhibiting/publishing/proposing cycles, but feel grateful to have a few of those in the works. The pandemic mellowed me: I make these things to process and creatively question, and just to be happier.

Omar Lisandro is a wardrobe stylist and set designer who has been a Houston native for more than 20 years. His most notable work has been working on music videos and design for Blueprint Film Co, as well as assisting on a GQ cover. He is the co-founder of STRUT, a Houston-based fashion organization dedicated to sharing trends and promoting acceptance of any and all styles. 

What does being part of the LGBT community mean to you? 

Being part of the LGBT community means love and legacy. To be part of a monumental family of fighters, survivors, incredible people, and artists alike, championing their truths through so many social changes. It’s like being a soldier in a fabulous army of rainbow warriors.

How do you celebrate Pride? 

I always celebrate pride by finding new champions. Artists, activists, allies to learn about, share, and be inspired by to live my truth as a gay man. In addition to that, in years past, I’ve served alongside the incredible President of Houston’s Pride, Lovely Lo, coordinating their annual Rock the Runway fashion show.

What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

I got to slow down and take time to be inspired by nature and quiet moments. Everything was at a standstill and taking in the silence, accepting it, making peace, and seeing nature carry on in a very different light. Also seeing people rediscover the importance of community and socialization in any way possible inspired me to reach out via a live stream called the Style Hour and help people validate themselves aesthetically.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

I can’t stress enough the importance of shopping local/person to person. Our buying power has the ability to change lives, save neighborhoods, and empower others to be the positive changes we want to see in the world. It also champions more diverse options in goods, services, and retail spaces that really want to support and cater to exactly what our community needs are.

Meet Michelle Kruschik. She/her. Houston native. Freelance Wardrobe Stylist and Visual Merchandising Manager for Urban Outfitters. Happily married to my beautiful and talented wife. Cat-mom.

Q: How do you celebrate Pride? 

A: For me, the most important part of celebrating Pride is really about spending time with my friends and family. For so many, celebrating means spending time with their chosen family. I was fortunate that my biological family accepted me for who I am and who I love. Sadly, that isn’t the case for a lot of people.

With events like the yearly parades beginning to draw more people outside of the community, I hope this gap grows smaller as people become more accepting of all forms of love. Attending the parades with my friends and family is one of my favorite ways to celebrate. I’m looking forward to the parades resuming as we get back to a post-Covid world.

Q: What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

A: I feel the most accomplished anytime I take on a unique project for the first time. By trying new things and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, I gain new experiences that make me a better stylist. That’s what it’s all about for me. 

A project I’m incredibly proud of was working with The Suffers for their most recent press release. Styling a band of seven members was a lot of fun. I enjoyed bringing their music to life visually through fashion.

Q: What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

A: I get a lot of my inspiration through my travels. So this past year, with Covid making travel not possible, I had to really tap into my imagination, ultimately motivating me to deliver more creative direction on shoots. Without the environmental influences to be my muse, I realized that not only do I love coming up with entire concepts but that I was good at it! I even utilized my skills from cosmetology school and my passion for hair and makeup to influence my vision. Pulling from that experience and diving deep into every facet of my creativity has helped me as a wardrobe stylist to create cohesive looks and tell a strong visual story.

Q: What’s next on the horizon?

A: I really enjoy collaborating with other creatives and will continue to work with musicians and various artists. However, the best way to keep growing is to broaden your horizons and expand your perspectives. So, I plan to start accepting new clientele from different industries to keep things exciting and keep me thinking out of the box.

Olivia Kaufman (she/her) is a native New Yorker but has lived in Texas for the majority of her life. She is 33 years old and married with three children. Olivia is a paramedic and has been serving the community in EMS for 11 years. She and her wife are foster parents, as well. Olivia loves to travel and spend time with her family. 

Q: What does being part of the LGBT community mean to you

A: Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is exactly that — community. I am part of a group — a family of humans who are brilliant, diverse, loving, talented, and beautiful. I’m part of a group of people who share friendships, relationships, marriages, parenthood. We contribute so many wonderful things to society, and do so with passion and pride. 

Q: How do you celebrate Pride? 

A: We celebrate Pride everyday. My wife and I are unapologetically ourselves in public just as much as we are at home. We show our children that we belong alongside our friends and neighbors just as we are. We celebrate Pride Month by diving deeper into our history as a community — we watch documentaries and learn about the pioneers who fought to pave the way to where we are as a community today. (I also buy my wife new Pride shoes every year!)

Q: How has your work evolved over the past 12 months?

A: I am a paramedic, and my work life has changed drastically over the last year. I have learned that it’s hard to have compassion when we are tired, but we must continue to exhibit kindness and compassion through the most challenging times. I have learned that I really value my quality time with my wife and children and take time to recharge when necessary. I have spent time over the past year working on mentoring my peers at work when I have the opportunity, and I have learned that I really enjoy it.

Q: What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

A: Eight months ago, I gave birth to our baby boy, Jett. To say that the joy that my wife and I feel was unexpected would be an understatement. I am inspired by my older daughter and son’s love for their baby brother, and my wife’s unconditional love and support. Parenthood has been the most incredible experience.

Q: What is one way we can all support each other right now?

A: I feel like the best way to support one another is to actively listen to one another, open our hearts to learning, and allow ourselves to evolve as a result. Each and every human being has a different frame of reference, which shapes one’s world. Opening our hearts and minds to hearing and understanding others’ experiences makes such a difference in supporting one another.

Deondray Watson is a native Houstonian with ambitions to see and experience the world. A creative at heart with 8+ years of culinary experience, holding a degree from The Culinary Institute of America, he hosts private and intimate dinners while selling small batch artisanal kombuchas. Modeling is a hobby and nature is life.

Q: What does being part of the LGBTQ+ community mean to you

A: Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community means being brave in the face of adversity. We face the world and say “I am who I am” unapologetically even though it would be much easier to conform to the world around us. That takes guts!

Q: How do you celebrate Pride? 

A: I celebrate Pride by acknowledging it! It is a month to truly be proud. We have come so far as a community and as people. I celebrate by showing love to myself and love to others.

Q: What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

A: My proudest accomplishment was realizing the gift and passion I have for cooking was truly and unequivocally for me! There was a time in my life where I thought maybe I had chosen the wrong career, and somewhere along my journey I had lost my love for it all. So, I stepped away from it professionally. I soon started to realize that I was still in the kitchen with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. As hard as I tried to walk away, I found myself back in the kitchen whenever I thought of my happy place. That desire to keep learning and keep growing is still inside of me and it has been unwavering.

Q: How has your creative practice evolved over the past 12 months?

A: I have learned to be patient with myself and resist putting such heavy expectations on how I had to be and what I had to accomplish. I have given myself freedom to create organically and be intentional about what I create. I do not constrain myself to time and set styles or ideals. I only allow purity and passion so that my work reverberates my messages and intentions through others.

Q: What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

A: Self love has been my unexpected joy these past 12 months. Simple as it may seem, a lot of us barely give ourselves any love. Some of us (like myself) give it away to everyone and save none for ourselves, while others have none to give to anyone including themselves. I’ve unlocked the answers to so many problems in my life thanks to healing and loving myself first. Showing gratitude and kindness has opened so many doors in my life.

Q: What is one way we can all support each other right now?

A: We can all support each other right now by listening. Listen to understand. Listen to learn. Listen to grow. Don’t listen to give a rebuttal. Don’t listen to defend. Listen to unite!

Q: What’s next on the horizon?

A: Next on the horizon is to continue my travels. Now this will be to new countries; learning, listening, absorbing, and growing. Growing as a chef, as a model, as a creative, as a future entrepreneur, but more importantly as a being.

Linh Hoang is a Vietnamese-born and Houston-raised Artist and Designer. He is currently a Brand Designer at the Gensler design firm. His expertise at work is in environmental graphics — anything from signage to Instagram moments. He believes strongly in conveying a message rather than just being aesthetically pleasing. Since he has a lot of passion for art in general, he likes to dip his toes in almost everything related to art — drawing, painting, animating, creating webcomics, illustrating, and more. He just wants to contribute to the society around him by telling his story and sharing his experience through colors and curves.

Q: What does being part of the LGBTQ+ community mean to you

A: It means to be true to myself and to unapologetically show my authentic self and experiences to the world. Like many of us, I have struggled in the past to accept who I am and what drives me – motivated in part by fear of rejection and of the societal red tapes I was treading through, it was a very tough time growing up. So for me belonging to the LGBTQ+ community isn’t just a label but rather a testament to the journeys we fought and grew through and a reflection of accepting and overcoming the blockages that traditions and societal constructs often throw at us.

Q: How do you celebrate Pride? 

A: I love to go with my friends to the Houston Pride as well as various community events for LGBTQ+ folks as I love seeing how vibrant of a community we have and gain strength through the family we create in this community. Seeing others who are bravely living their stories and the allies that stand with us reminds me that we are not alone and that we have a place in this world.

Q: What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

A: One of my proudest accomplishments in my career was being able to be a part of the mural art project for the Children’s Assessment Center. The Gensler team worked closely with the CAC and color corp teams to listen to the children and their stories, goals, and dreams in life. We then took these stories and created a final product in the form of a mural that encompassed the shapes and motifs brought up by the children themselves that would bring them comfort and joy – some of these themes included family, nature, love, shelter, and other beautiful things. Abstract combinations of circular and pointed shapes represented these themes in a thoughtful, uplifting, and powerful way.

Q: How has your creative practice evolved over the past 12 months?

A: My creative practice has evolved in an interesting way these past 12 months. Despite the pandemic, our team has been growing and reaching new heights this year with many new and exciting projects. I am now working more on video and motion graphics for my Gensler brand team – something I’ve always wanted to learn more about. Aside from work, I have been learning Procreate and been creating many art and design projects that push my boundaries and challenge me to look at things from different styles and perspectives. Some of these were a new webcomic that I started with a friend called BlueBoi Comics as well as digital painting and illustration projects such as the 36 Days of Type.

Q: What unexpected joy or inspiration did you discover over the past 12 months?

A: One of my unexpected joys and inspirations was when I picked up Procreate and started learning up its inner workings. From quick sketches for design concepts to detailed illustrations and animations, I absolutely love the seamless interface and endless opportunities this app has brought me. Creating is my joy and Procreate has enabled me to do it with ease. I also have a huge love for anything that has to do with Pokemon or dinosaurs. I recently purchased a book titled Dictionary of Dinosaurs by Baron, Dr. Matthew G. and Dieter Braun. The illustrations are so unique and it’s been refreshing and very fun to flip through and read.

Q: What is one way we can all support each other right now?

A: Sending love and checking in with each other is a critical way to support each other in these trying times. Yes, some of us are starting to go back to the “new normal” but many folks are still hesitant to be around others or socialize. A simple “hello” and “how are you?” can really help them warm back into connecting with others. Many would appreciate the fact that we have them in our thoughts and that we are wanting to make sure they are doing alright.

Q: What’s next on the horizon?

A: I’ll be participating in a Vietnamese Houston Boardgame channel on YouTube, called Wewolf, where we will do explanations of various board games and try out different games in our weekly videos. I have been helping in the creation of the logo, so it’s been very fun. Aside from that, I am also trying to expand my collection of digital paintings and illustrations and hope to one day be able to curate enough personal work that I can sell my prints and such at art markets around the city!

Tyler Blackwell is a writer and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Associate Curator at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, where he organizes contemporary art exhibitions, public programs, and performances. Prior to his time in Houston, Tyler held positions in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smart Museum of Art. He studied Art History at the University of Chicago.

Q: How do you celebrate Pride? 

A: I always try to celebrate Pride by devoting time to learning more about the stories of our trans and queer activist pioneers and predecessors. We are all indebted to their sheer bravery, persistence, and radical service towards greater understanding and acceptance for all of us. They also taught us there is still much work to be done. Queer joy and ideas of pride — in yourself, in your own community and safe spaces, in your favorite artists and thinkers, in your friends and chosen family — are important things I believe we should all strive to express year-round!

Q: What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

A: I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work on a number of projects and performances with some really innovative and important modern and contemporary artists over the years. Some of these include Rodney McMillian, Rebecca Morris, Pope.L, the late Jacqueline Nova, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz.

Q: What’s next on the horizon?

A: At the Blaffer Art Museum at UH, we are very excited to welcome visitors (admission/parking is always free!) into our space to experience the work of a variety of emerging and established contemporary artists from around the world. Some of our current and upcoming projects include exhibitions of the Houston artist Jamal Cyrus, Canadian artist Jagdeep Raina, NY-based artist Martine Gutierrez, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung — an iconoclastic painter who participated in the underground feminist punk Riot Grrrl scene in the 1990s. Come visit us!


Thank you to all of our participants for sharing their experiences with the AIGA Houston community.

By aigahouston
Published June 11, 2021
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