nikki fragala barnes

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Week 3 | Curation + Community

[Previously in this series, a summer internship with the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida: Intro/Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6.]

Queer Space, an exhibit from the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida, on display at The Center Orlando, June 2021. Photo credit: David Matteson.

QUEER SPACES is a featured exhibit of the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida on display at The Center Orlando that opened on 3 June 2021. The content is a curated series of text describing elements of queer spaces supported by photographic images from the Museum’s collection. The original gallery text was drafted by interns with Rollins College supervised by Claire Strom. As an experienced editor, I was asked to review the panels. The supporting work and label copy needed minor content editing to increase cohesion, though the title panel required contextualization and reshaping to draw these elements into a a queer space of their own: a case-gallery evoking an expanded understanding of how we use space and move through places in tension within the mainstream.

This is the content I wrote, now displayed on the title panel:

Queer Space | What is queer space?

Queer spaces are about belonging. Queer space is a way of naming and mapping places that include. Because the typical landscape consists of places that are socially coded to welcome and reinforce mainstream, dominant, heteronormative culture — they have written out queer narratives, ways of being. And, since we are each an accumulation of our stories, we have been written out — an exclusion of queer bodies. Queer spaces are a refuge. Queer spaces are where (and when) we can be a little less guarded and a little more safe. The existence of queer spaces means we can exist — we thrive and grow and inspire with them, through them, in them. We belong.

As queer spaces are built and sustained, we cultivate a community together. These buildings, these events embody life and hope and possibility. When they are closed, violently violated, or even temporarily shuttered (as so many have been during the pandemic), we feel wounded.

This exhibition explores the dimensions of Central Florida queer spaces. We locate these spaces by recognizing built environments that evoke a sense of belonging for LGBTQ individuals. We also recognize that not all spaces that serve LGBTQ patrons are perceived as welcoming by everyone represented under the rainbow flag. For example, a cisgender, lesbian woman or transgender man will likely not be accepted at a bathhouse that exclusively caters to the recreation of cisgender, gay men. Although crossover does exist, we recognize queer spaces by their culture of inclusivity — differentiated from ones specifically dedicated to gay men and/or lesbian women. A queer space aims to be inclusive and accessible to a diverse constituency.

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I also proposed and collaborated on a community event spotlighting the work of LGBTQ Artists + Authors with the Winter Park Public Library. We built a zine to connect with our young adult audience and also to invite them to encounter the dynamic works of these talented creatives as well as to be inspired by included prompts and project ideas.

The work of this internship is a hub with many spokes. I spent this week concentrating on critical making, creative activism and support, as well as community building.

Event info + Zine