The Ordinance Project: Voices Raised
The Ordinance Project: Voices Raised was a public history installation that I created with UMKC PhD history student Austin R. Williams. As a supplement to Williams’ feature-length documentary, The Ordinance Project, the exhibit highlighted the historical context of the early-1990s effort to pass an ordinance in Kansas City, Missouri, that would have officially outlawed discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations. The exhibit also highlighted many of the voices involved in the fight for the ordinance, which quickly became one of the most contested pieces of legislation in Kansas City’s history.
As co-curators, Williams and I created a temporary exhibit installation composed of a 30-foot timeline of local and national events around gay rights and the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s; five story vignettes which featured ephemera from the fight, summaries of key issues, and video interviews from some of the activists featured in the film; and a television playing City Hall testimony on a loop, surrounded by some of the most memorable comments–both for and against the ordinance–on the walls surrounding the television. I designed all elements of the exhibit (excluding the map of current LGBTQ civil rights ordinances).
Our goals were to promote the pending release of the documentary, emphasize the hard work of everyday activists, and underscore the ways that the voices of this battle continue to echo in Kansas City today.
The exhibit ran for six weeks at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Gallery in Kansas City, including two receptions for the Crossroads Art District’s First Fridays event. More than 1,000 people viewed the exhibit during its limited run. Among the most rewarding sights I witnessed during its run was seeing gay men and women who lived through the period in Kansas City pointing out to their friends events in which they had participated.