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'Free to Be' showcases LGBTQ+ artists at Athenaeum

This year, the Athenaeum wanted to feature a wide variety of artists and their unique styles, perspectives, media, and stories.

INDIANAPOLIS — A new art show at the Athenaeum is showcasing the work of LGBTQ+ artists and allies. The "Free to Be" show features work by dozens of artists in central Indiana, celebrating Pride and their experiences. But Athenaeum Foundation operations director Patrick Rutledge said it is also in keeping with the building's founders' vision. 

"The group that actually started this building was the Athenaeum Turners," Rutledge said. "One of the things that was really important to the Turners, that we try to live on too, is the idea that everybody comes to the table with a unique perspective. We should be creating spaces for people to bring that perspective to the table for us to share with each other and have that conversation."

The project is a partnership with Indy Pride. Last year, they showcased the work of a single artist for Pride. But this year, the Athenaeum wanted to feature a wide variety of artists. Rutledge said that lets them showcase their unique styles, perspectives, media, and stories.

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"We are here. Our stories are just as important," said artist Mazzy Booth. "Like we've always been here. I know that's maybe the simple answer, but I also think it's the very important answer. Just exposure and normalizing our stories."

Booth has shared a large oil painting for the exhibit. They said it is more abstract than their usual work, but they are happy with it. They said even if people don't get their specific message, they will be happy if it resonates with people.

Credit: WTHR
Artist Sky Lee Smith used watercolors for a piece on display at the Athenaeum for a special Pride Month showcase.

Artist Sky Lee Smith said she wants her work to make people feel seen. She has used watercolors to paint Pride flag-colored skies behind ink renderings of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis. 

"My friends and family are important to me," Smith said. "And I love that they are able to see themselves with our monument. I think that's huge to be able to see that representation alongside, right there, in the pieces together."

MORE: The history of Pride Month

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