The City of North Miami unveiled a new sculpture installation on Saturday, March 4th, that was commissioned to “Celebrate the legacy of Miami-Dade County’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer champions and the historic milestones of their community,” said Scott Galvin, the North Miami Councilman who spearheaded this project.
The artwork, created by Miami artist Alan Gutierrez, will remain permanently installed at Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park, 1725 NE 135th Street in North Miami.
This is the first time a permanent public art installation in Miami-Dade County honors the GLBTQ community in this manner. The sculpture includes a time-line that comes full circle from 1977 to 2017: starting with Ruth Shack’s historic championing of gay rights in 1977, to forty years later when the made-in-Miami film “Moonlight,” directed and written by Miamians Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, is the first gay film ever to win the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, as well as being the first with an all-black cast.
“The art project was originally inspired by the June 2016 tragedy at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub,” said Councilman Galvin, who has served in public office for eighteen years (making him one of the longest-serving openly gay elected officials in the United States). “Rather than be a somber memorial to those victims, North Miami’s sculpture celebrates GLBTQ lives that inspire all of us, and acknowledges the legacy of GLBTQ milestones in Miami-Dade County’s history,” adds Galvin.
The process to establish this artwork took nine months, and began in the summer of 2016. A call-to-artists was released, and more than thirty artists responded with their submissions. The winning artwork was selected by a committee of cultural leaders and experts.
“The unveiling event was beyond poignant, and moving in ways I didn’t expect,” said the artist Alan Gutierrez. “I knew I was creating something that would be a part of a community, but I didn’t anticipate its place in a movement - a movement guided by pioneers on the new frontiers of love and acceptance.”
Pioneers of the GLBTQ movement are featured in a plaque that stands alongside the artwork installation, serving as a time-line of Miami-Dade County’s Queer history.
At the unveiling Councilman Scott Galvin passionately recognized each honoree, starting with Ruth Shack: “It started here in Miami-Dade County in 1977 when Ruth Shack as a County Commissioner made the historic motion to amend the human-rights ordinance to include gay people. She made history forty years ago not only for Miami-Dade County, but also setting into motion the force of a national movement that could not, would not – and will not — be stopped.”
Ruth Shack’s history-making battle for gay rights became national headline news in the 1970s when Anita Bryant (the singer and spokeswoman for Florida orange juice) led a controversial voter referendum campaign to overturn Shack’s ordinance. It would take twenty-one years for Miami-Dade County to restore these protections again.
“I am honored,” said Ruth Shack. “When we started this pursuit forty years ago, and we tried to get the gay community together, there was no such thing. Because you risked your life, your family reputation and your job if you acknowledged the fact openly that you’re gay. And we see so many of the pioneers who had the courage to come forward here today. It’s so inspiring, so splendid. But we still have so much more work to do.”
Councilman Galvin also introduced some of the other icons honored at the unveiling, including several judges, former mayor Kevin Burns, the first openly gay mayor in Miami-Dade County, North Miami resident Martin Gill, an openly gay man who in 2010 won the right to become an adoptive parent, effectively ending Florida’s thirty-three-year ban on gay adoption, and SAVE, the GLBTQ-rights group that led the drive to restore the Miami-Dade human-rights ordinance in 1998, years after the battle between Anita Bryant and gay activists.
The five-foot tall, vertical marine grade paint-coated metal sculptural forms arise from a set of exactly matched specific colors - these colors are the eighteen industry-standard makeup colors used for special effects on stage and in film. “These colors are literally used in theatrical and cinematic representations of characters to convey or accentuate a hyperbolized reality of who we can be, or what can be done onto us. These representations exist within a virtual space which can, too, become our reality,” said the artist Alan Gutierrez.