49 Portraits Project

Q: How and why did you decide to do this for the families of the Orlando shooting victims?
A: I was inspired by a similar project done on a much smaller scale for the victims of the Charleston Emmanuel AME church attacks.  When I heard about it, I wished I could have been able to participate.  After the Pulse attacks, as well as other violence occurring in this country and around the world, I felt so helpless and overwhelmed like so many of us, and was searching for a way to do something. Also this attack targeting the LGBTQ community was especially hard to take, as is an attack on any marginalized group already struggling to feel safe and acknowledged for their full humanity.  And I knew finding 49 artists to do portrait might be difficult but I thought that if I could pull it off it would be incredibly powerful and meaningful.  The project touches on all the most important things to me: having the courage to move towards pain as a way to heal and bring people together, and the need for art (representational art in particular) to be made and seen to help us process our lives and find beauty in the midst of tragedy.
Q: Why did you choose to do portraits rather than some other medium?
A: I am a visual artist, and I made a portrait too.  I love painting portraits.  When you paint/draw you look at things with an attention and care that you would never otherwise do.  So there is an experience for the artist of really lovingly taking in a face and considering a life.  So making the portrait for me and for each artist involved is a way of feeling and reckoning with the loss.  And putting love into the void left by horror and tragedy.  And it offers that same gift to all the viewers, which is so clear because we all respond so differently to these portraits than the snapshots that were publicly shared.  I also love the way the portraits transcend politics.
Q: How will you get these portraits to the families?
A: Right now the plan is to exhibit the work in Orlando at a the Terrace Gallery in City Hall in the Winter/Spring and then present the work to the families near the anniversary of the attacks.  I have gotten the help of the office of the Mayor of Orlando and a LGBT community center there as well to reach the families.
Q: When do you think you will be finished with this project?
A: I have nearly all the portraits, I believe I am just short a few at this point so hopefully in the next couple of weeks or so.
Q: How do you hope this will help the victims’ families?
A: I hope they feel all the love that went into them and that they are first deeply moved by the efforts of a stranger for them.  Then I hope that for the rest of their life they feel the presence of their loved one in the piece.  But I think the impact of the work and the project is not just for the family and friends of those lost, but for anyone and everyone who needs it.  We are creating a permanent website gallery for the portraits as well.

Hey Hey Hey, It’s Disney’s Gay Days! – LGBT Weekend Travel Getaways

Know Your LGBT (Disney) History

 “’While Disney does not sponsor the event, the company accommodates any large group,’ said Suzi Brown, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman. Disney quietly cooperates with Gay Days, such as by selling meal packages with rainbow Mickey cookies. Gay Days started in 1998 with 2,500 people unofficially gathering in Disneyland. Groups had protested and boycotted Disneyland, saying the event was not family-friendly. But large-scale, organized protests have been absent for several years.”

– Sarah Tully, for The Orange County Register

In spite of marked recent controversies,the years-long “unofficially official” tradition of Disney’s Gay Days continues to thrive.

In Anaheim, California, home to Disneyland, Gay Days attracts tens of thousands of people each year (well over 30,000 in 2013), while in Orlando, Florida, Gay Days attracts hundreds of thousands.

Ever quietly and unofficially gay-friendly, the Disney franchise enjoyed a “coming out” of sorts this year as the Walt Disney World resort ushered in George Kalogridis as its first openly gay president. The California and Florida Disney’s have always been somewhat distinguished from one another (hence California’s Disney parks didn’t receive much flak from protesters), but with the welcoming in of Kalogridis (prior president of California’s Disneyland) changes are in motion.

Too, the new president is planning more gay-inclusive luxury vacation bundles, trips and soirees for the discerning Mousekateers in the building.

What that means for you, dear sun-seekers and vacation lovers, is more LGBT-inclusive play, perks, and parks! CA to FL vacation packages for Gay Days vaycays? That’s just gotta be in the works, dontcha think?

Gay Days continues to book the best entertainers, so mark your calendars now: planned performers and festivities for Anaheim alone include drag diva extraordinaire Miss Coco Peru, “Glee’s” Alex Newell (Unique), DJ Kimberly S., and An Intimate Conversation with Tabatha Coffee.

Gay Days aren’t all just fun and games—there’s chill time scheduled with each itinerary as well. Event planners will hook you up with luxuriant brunches, exclusive concierge service and affiliated spa deals, because unwinding is a must. January Disney Resort sea cruises are also in the works. Loving that.

The newly-launched Gay Days Las Vegas (held in September)  speaks to the continued success of and ongoing demand for more LGBT-inclusive and family-friendly events at Disney and beyond.

Of course, Orlando events are better than ever, virtually unaffected by recent attempts at inciting controversy.

Gay Days aren’t just for boys. Tours and parties are always planned exclusively for women, men, and of course “Bears only,” in addition to the main events.

Yes, We Are Still Family.

 “Evan, Alix and Jamie had a great time with their moms at Disney World on June 5. They loved Disney’s afternoon Celebrate a Dream Come True parade, which they watched right up front, by the castle. Thousands of gays and lesbians and their families surrounded them. ‘That was really awesome and empowering,’  [An attendee said.] ‘The kids really felt part of the bigger picture.’ For the Couchman-Spencer family, the only controversy about Gay Days was how long to stay. The kids got tired. By the time Disney’s big nighttime electrical parade was over, the family had been at the park for 12 hours.”

– John Cloud, for Time Magazine

No, “One Million Moms:” Gay Days events are not Greco-Roman orgies (on what planet would that happen during “Disney time?”). Kids get to meet Mickey and Minnie accompanied and supervised by LGBTQ parents and families without encountering homophobic scrutiny, and that’s a beautiful thing.

So pick a city and book your trip. True: you’ll encounter the obligatory rainbow-sprinkled souvenirs, have your corny and kitsch quotient filled up to the brim for the year, and most of all you’ll have a lot of whole-hearted, “Goofy” fun.

For more information, visit the links below.

Gay Days Las Vegas –  September 3-9, 2013

Gay Days at Disneyland Anaheim October 4–6, 2013

Gay Days Orlando June 3-9 2014

Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks

Gay Days & Girls Gay Days are a time-honored queer tradition. Therefore, we are ordering you, “fam” and friends to go forth and party. Do not refuse us—this is an order!