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Looking back: Pride art show honors 50th anniversary of Stonewall 

About 27 years after the historic Stonewall riots in 1969, San Luis Obispo County celebrated Pride and its LGBTQ members for the first time officially as a community.

This year, to honor the riots' 50th anniversary, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Center Gallery is displaying A View from Stonewall, an exhibit featuring the photographs of gallery coordinator Lynn Schmidt in conjunction with the annual Central Coast Pride celebration.

click to enlarge HONORING THE PAST Lynn Schmidt, the GALA Center Gallery coordinator, wanted to honor the Stonewall riots for Pride this year. The 1969 riots marked the beginning of activism for the rights of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. - IMAGES COURTESY LYNN SCHMIDT
  • Images Courtesy Lynn Schmidt
  • HONORING THE PAST Lynn Schmidt, the GALA Center Gallery coordinator, wanted to honor the Stonewall riots for Pride this year. The 1969 riots marked the beginning of activism for the rights of the LGBTQ community in the U.S.

"It's a remembrance," Schmidt said. "A lot of people don't understand what Stonewall is and why it's important. It's a time to pause and remember that we've only been doing this for 50 years and reflect where we've been."

Early in the morning of June 28, 1969, the LGBTQ community in Greenwich Village, New York, spontaneously rioted in reaction to police raids on the Stonewall Inn. Those riots marked a turning point in the movement for civil rights for LGBTQ people in the U.S.

From the Stonewall riots to the 1980s, when Schmidt came of age, to today, the photographer can see the progress that has been made in normalizing LGBTQ people.

"It was very much 'don't ask, don't tell,' and 'yeah, that's your roommate, OK,'" Schmidt said.

To honor the people who were a part of Stonewall, Schmidt experimented with digitally altering and collaging her photos, a first for the LGBTQ artist.

"I haven't been too willing before to alter photos from their natural look," Schmidt said. "I'm allowing myself to manipulate them and get out of my comfort zone."

click to enlarge FLASHBACK In her art honoring the Stonewall riots, photographer Lynn Schmidt played with digitally manipulating and collaging her images, like in this piece on LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson. - IMAGES COURTESY LYNN SCHMIDT
  • Images Courtesy Lynn Schmidt
  • FLASHBACK In her art honoring the Stonewall riots, photographer Lynn Schmidt played with digitally manipulating and collaging her images, like in this piece on LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson.

While progress has been made in the past 50 years for the rights of LGBTQ people, Schmidt still has concerns about the community's rights in America currently and in the future. She listed concerns such as the high rates of homelessness and suicide among LGBTQ people.

"I'm amazed at how far we've come," Schmidt said. "I'm distressed by this current [presidential administration]," Schmidt said. "I don't feel like we're going back in the closet, but I think the civil liberties of vulnerable people in our community are being targeted."

The goal of the exhibit for Schmidt is to open people's eyes to a key part of LGBTQ history.

"I hope people find out a little tidbit that they didn't know before and to think about where we've been before," she said. "There were sacrifices and a tremendous amount of work that went into getting where we are today." Δ

Arts Writer Ryah Cooley believes that love is love. Send nice notes only to rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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