LGBTQ struggles, triumphs seen in art

The 49th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City -- the 1969 uprising that spurred the gay rights movement -- has given local artists a reason to reflect on the last half century.
The 49th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City -- the 1969 uprising that spurred the gay rights movement -- has given local artists a reason to reflect on the last half century.
"49 Years: Embracing the Past" opened with a reception at Jersey City City Hall last Friday with veterans of the long-established Jersey City art community looking back at LGBTQ struggles and triumphs.
The show is a companion to "49 Years: Focusing on the Future," which kicked off Pride Month at the William J.
Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City on Aug.
1.
Both exhibits are on display for the month of August.
The art being showcased at City Hall ranges from collages and paintings to photos to sketches and illustrations done in a monochromatic style.
Miguel Cardenas, artist and co-curator of the City Hall exhibition, has always been passionate about educating people on LGBTQ history.
"Without educating the public, gay, straight and the youth especially, we don't really have a chance to keep these rights that could so easily be taken away from us," he says.
Contributing artist Joe Gilmore agrees.
"It's very important to know the history, pass it on, and not repeat the bad parts," he says.
According to Cardenas, the show works to acknowledge the struggle for equality led by Stonewall veterans and LGBTQ activists as well as the community's fight for acceptance in the arts, government, education, sports, entertainment and everyday life.
Individual pieces, for example, reference topics such as the AIDS epidemic, marriage equality and gays in the military.
The exhibit has given its featured artists the chance to display their current work as well as reintroduce those from their past.
Artist Hamlet Manzueta, for instance, made one of his first appearances in decades at the opening reception and contributed two of his older pieces.
The artists said they aim to not only teach, but also to show the world that the LGBTQ community is not much different.
"We're all people -- it doesn't matter what happens in our bedrooms," contributor Beth Achenbach says.
"We all have bills to pay, people to love, and things we have to take care of." Voted as the queerest place in the nation by LGBTQ magazine the Advocate, Jersey City has become an important instrument of change.
Although there has been a recent growth of support, the LGBTQ community has been embraced by the art scene long before that.
"I've always felt supported," Gilmore says.
"I've been here over 20 years and it's been a really fertile ground for growth as an artist." If you go ...
WHAT: "49 Years: Embracing the Past'' WHEN: Through Aug.
31 WHERE: Jersey City City Hall, 280 Grove St.DETAILS: For information and details on other Pride Month events, go to jerseycitypride.com.

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