Then, Here/Now: Creating Community in the Center is a group exhibition that illuminates the histories and presence/presents of LGBTQIA+ art collectives and projects that help to ensure visibility and resilience in the middle of the map. This exhibition highlights myriad ways in which people identify and build community through visual practices. Certainly, the work shown within the exhibition is a fraction of the groups, collectives, and artistic endeavors that are undertaken, upheld, and created within this region. Visibility is difficult and vexed: this exhibition acknowledges the multitude of LGBTQIA+ elders and siblings that have created space, provided safety, and risked livelihoods in order to live authentically.

Participating Artists/Projects:


The Friends and Lovers mixed-media series represents images of love that are historically invisible. Based on anonymous found photographs, the small paintings depict same-sex female couples from different historical time periods. The Friends and Lovers series seeks to show relationships in a tender and natural way, leaving room for the viewer to understand the relationship presented in on their own terms.

Rachel Trusty is an artist, educator, and independent curator originally from central Arkansas. Her artwork and research focus on traditional feminist art-making techniques, queer art history, and on gendered materiality. Trusty currently resides in Lawrence, KS and attends the PHD program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at the University of Kansas.

Secret Love Collective was born in early 2017 out of a desire to connect and create worlds that do not yet exist. Through gatherings, events, performances, and exhibitions, we hope to engage friends and strangers in questioning the status quo, rigid categories of identity, dominant social structures, and art world hierarchies. By creating, we re-envision our lives and gain agency. We see this work as inherently political and intentionally liberating. Current members include: Katy Batsel, Lares Feliciano, Colby Graham, Piper Rose, Frankie Toan, Genevieve Waller, Katy Zimmerman, Lauren Zwicky.

Sky Cubacub is a non-binary queer and disabled Filipinx human from Chicago, IL. Rebirth Garments is their line of wearables for the full spectrum of gender, size, and ability. They maintain the notion of Radical Visibility, a movement based on claiming our bodies and, through the use of bright colors, exuberant fabrics, and innovative designs, they refuse to assimilate and are spearheading a Queer and Disabled dress reform movement. They are the editor of the Radical Visibility Zine, a magazine for Queer and Disabled teens based off of their manifesto.

The Ordinance Project

In 1990, the city council of Kansas City, Missouri voted on a highly contested piece of civil rights legislation—a measure which would have officially outlawed discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. Over a period of three weeks, council members heard more than twelve hours of testimony from hundreds of citizens. Supporters and opponents orchestrated massive campaigns, flooding City Hall with a record-setting amount of phone calls, letters, and demonstrations. Utilizing over fifty hours of oral history interviews with the Kansas City activists, community organizers, and politicians directly involved in fighting for the passage of nondiscrimination legislation for LGBTQ communities and people with HIV/AIDS, The Ordinance Project contextualizes the controversy surrounding this human rights ordinance within the broader resurgence of activism fueled by the AIDS epidemic.

Austin R. Williams is a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City whose current work focuses on Kansas City’s response to the AIDS epidemic and its impact upon LGBTQ civil rights. Specializing in public history, oral history, and documentary filmmaking, his debut film The Ordinance Project won the “Courage Award” for best feature-length documentary at the 2018 Kansas City LGBT Film Festival. Williams is in his fourth year as a graduate instructor at UMKC where he teaches courses in American History, LGBTQ History, and Public Urban Education. He is currently contracted with the University Press of Kansas.

Oklahomans for Equality / OkEq (formerly Tulsa Oklahomans for Human Rights / TOHR) was founded in 1980 by a small group of people concerned about human rights and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

In the 1980s, OkEq sponsored several high-profile social events for the LGBT and allied community, operated a speakers bureau, launched the first gay pride picnic and sponsored the nationally known Southwest Invitational softball tournament. With the advent of HIV/AIDS, OkEq sent medical professionals to health conferences to return and advise the community on the transmission of the virus. OkEq then opened Northeast Oklahoma’s first anonymous HIV testing clinic, becoming a state leader in HIV/AIDS testing and education. In 1998, H.O.P.E. (Health Outreach, Prevention & Education) became a separate nonprofit organization. Today, OkEq and H.O.P.E. continue their partnership with health testing.

OkEq opened Oklahoma’s first LGBT Community Center in October 1996. The Center quickly became the focal point for the community and subsequently moved to two larger locations over the years. In October 2005, thanks to the success of the Pyramid Project capital campaign, OkEq purchased an 18,000-square-foot facility to house the permanent home for the community.

This exhibition is made possible by Arts Alliance Tulsa, George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Harmon Foundation, and SPJ Hospitality. Program partners include: Bible Belt Queers, Camp Fire, Oklahomans for Equality, Oklahoma Mental Health Association, Queer Film Continuum, and the Tulsa Artist Fellowship.