By Kristi Parker
WICHITA - Disco balls of all sizes, pretzels in the colors of the rainbow, sound pretty evil? That's what the Newman University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly McDowall Long decided when making the decision to cancel the school's Final Friday show on Jan. 26.
Denver artist Genevieve Waller's exhibition Rainbow in Reverse: Queer Kansas History was to appear in Newman's Steckline Gallery. That was until an e-mail circulated among religious circles and Jean Heimann, a local Catholic writer, wrote to Long saying, "...why is it necessary to expose students to evil? Why do students need to be encouraged to learn more about a sickness in our society?"
After hearing of the cancellation, Harvester Arts stepped in to offer an alternative space. "We were just happy that we didn't have anything booked for that evening," Kate Van Steenhuyse, Founder and CEO, said.
The artist, Waller, grew up in Wichita. She attended Northeast Magnet High School and Wichita State University. Her exhibit features a look at six LGBTQ Kansans through sculptures, photography and installation art.
The biographies of Gilbert Baker, Stephanie Mott, Ruby Dandridge, James Barr Fugate, William Inge, and Louise Brooks were displayed on one wall; their names on another.
Waller told the Wichita Eagle that she thinks Gilbert Baker, the artist who created the rainbow flag, and other LGBTQ Kansans should be better-known and celebrated in their home state.
"I would like the exhibit to spark curiosity about LGBTQ history in Kansas and help pave the way for LGBTQ Kansans' stories to become part of official state histories," she said. l