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Flint, MI —Flint Public Art Project resident Brent Houzenga has painting of 10 Pride hearts throughout the city to celebrate Pride Month’s 50th anniversary, and the five-year anniversary of the legalization of gay marriage.
“This year, with the pride festival not happening because of Coronavirus and (everything) going online, we really wanted to give the LGBTQ+ community a way to celebrate while social distancing,” said Joe Schipani, executive director of the Flint Public Art Project.
“It’s that one day a year where we feel this is a safe space, during pride festivals. We’re hoping this will make it feel like a safe place all year long.”
The project idea was a collaboration between Schipani’s partner, Phillip Barnhart, and the artist, Brent Houzenga.
The hearts themselves are comprised of the rainbow stripes. Houzenga also added background stripes for the heart. The stripes — black, brown, light blue, pink and white—represent people of color, trans people, those living with HIV/AIDS and those who have been lost.
“Going to pride, it was the one time of the year you felt safe and welcome in a space. You didn’t have to worry about being around people and seeing and wondering what they’re thinking, wondering if something will happen because they’re not okay with it,” Schipani continued.
He talked about the scarcity of other safe spaces like this, citing the closure of gay bars in the area due to state restrictions in response to COVID-19.
“It’s like those spaces are going, and so to have those safe spaces are very important to people. Very important to me.”
For the locations for the project, they tried to select gay-owned or gay-friendly places, like The Good Beans Cafe and the Michigan Wellness Center.
“We tried to highlight those,” said Schipani.
To find these locations, residents can download the PixelStix app and search #fpap_pride. Those visiting the hearts can touch their phone to the brick to access different videos about the history, evolution, and people that have influenced what Pride is today.