Laguna Museum of Art celebrates LGBTQ culture and heritage with panel discussion

At various restaurant counters and store fronts in Laguna Beach, the rainbow flag is prominently displayed as the beach town long considered a haven for the LGBTQ community celebrates Pride Month.

A rainbow flag flutters in the wind from the flagpole of Laguna Beach City Hall, a recognition put in place by a council vote a few years ago. In May 2017, city leaders proclaimed June LGBTQ Heritage and Culture Month in Laguna Beach in perpetuity.

A collaboration between Laguna Beach Pride 365 and Laguna Art Museum is the latest sign of LGBTQ acceptance in the community. The museum will host a Pride celebration and panel discussion Saturday from 4-8 p.m.

Laguna Beach Pride 365 markets itself as an organization that is focused on “building unity and commerce through the power of diversity.” Jonathan Colliflower, vice president of Laguna Beach Pride 365, says the partnership with the museum goes in that direction.

“Our mission is to bring back the vibrancy of Laguna Beach,” Colliflower said. “Bring back trade, bring back tourism, bring back life. Starting a relationship with the museum would be an amazing step because we want to build these safe spaces, if you will, for the LGBTQ community, knowing that the museum supports them. They are an ally.

A champagne reception will kick off the event, and entertainment, drinks and light snacks will be available. Admission to the roundtable is $7 for museum members and $14 for non-members. There is no charge to attend the celebration.

Panelists will educate attendees about the history of Laguna Beach and its relationship with the LGBTQ population.

Laguna Beach resident Chris Tebbutt (Founder of Laguna Beach LGBTQ+ Heritage and Culture Alliance) will serve as moderator. Confirmed panelists include resident and business owner Ruben Flores, museum board member Mike Johnson, and Sarah Kasman (retired executive director of Shanti Orange County, a mental health and wellness services organization). -be).

“I’m thrilled the panel shared their perspective from the 1980s, 90s and 2000s to the present day,” Colliflower said. “We kind of have this nice age group, people who have been here for decades, talking about the history of Laguna and the West Hollywood kind of Orange County.”

Colliflower, 52, said he remembers coming to Laguna Beach for its gay bars and the popular West Street Beach when he was growing up, and he said it’s important for the public to know about the ‘history of the city.

Craig Cooley, president of Laguna Beach Pride 365, echoed Colliflower’s sentiments.

“We should celebrate what Laguna Beach is as a community and how welcoming and supportive they are to the gay community and what a wonderful cultural environment there is here in Laguna Beach,” Cooley said. “We should celebrate it, appreciate it, and part of that is the story and the journey.

“The idea is to look back and look forward. The front part, I guess, is getting together and celebrating who we are and what’s going on in the community today.

Museum officials said the institution views the upcoming event as the first in a plan to bring additional programming that demonstrates its commitment to welcoming audiences from diverse backgrounds.

“I’m passionate about not just doing these one-off programs and really solidifying this commitment to inclusivity,” said Victoria Gerard, deputy director of the museum. “I said [Cooley and Colliflower] pride is 365 days a year, and we’ve already kind of started talking about more programming, including family programs and storytimes that talk about the LGBTQ community.

“There’s a lot of really interesting history in Laguna related to this community, the arts and the museum, so there’s definitely more programs and group discussions that we kind of started imagining for the future, and I really feel like it’s just a first step in sort of reinvesting the museum in various communities.

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Mildred D. Field