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Allies And Advocates In Columbus

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BY KAYLEE DUFF

Equality Ohio is honoring two of the local activists — Nannette Maciejunes and Luster Singleton — who are making Ohio a better place to live.

Since their beginning in 2005, Equality Ohio has served Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community in almost every way there was a need. They focus their education and activism efforts on the legal and lived inequalities that affect the experiences of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ population. From pushing for non-discrimination acts and working to end conversion therapy to hosting legal clinics and providing resources, Equality Ohio does it all, big and small.

In December, the nonprofit honored two activists — Dr. Cecile Unger and Giovonni Santiago — local to northeast Ohio in an Allies & Advocates event in Cleveland. This month, they are “celebrating the people who bring legal and lived equality to life” in central Ohio at an event on Wednesday, March 27, at the Columbus Museum of Art. The Equality Ohio Allies & Advocates Columbus honorees are Nannette Maciejunes and Luster Singleton.

Honored ally, Nannette Maciejunes.

The honored Ally, Nannette Maciejunes, has been the Executive Director of the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) since 2003, and is a beloved ally to our LGBTQ+ community. “Being an LGBTQ ally is a natural fit for art museums because so many of the creative people who are such a vital and crucial part of the arts community — artists, curators, gallery owners — are also part of the LGBTQ community,” Maciejunes said.

Over the years, Nannette has received a number of awards and recognitions for her work, including the Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts in the category of Arts Administration and the South Side Settlement House Spirit of Volunteerism Award, in 2006; a YWCA Woman of Achievement recognition, in 2009; and Columbus Business First C-Suite Award Honoree, in 2015.

The Museum has also been honored many times over the years; in 2013, it was awarded the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal, the highest honor for museums. “This award means that world to me because it recognizes that CMA is one of the finest museums in the country and that we make vital contributions to
the creativity and quality of life of our community,” said Maciejunes.

Maciejunes has also worked to bring diversity and inclusivity to both the Columbus Museum of Art and our surrounding art community. Under her leadership, the CMA adopted and implemented its mission to create great experiences with great art for everyone. Part of that mission included highlighted works by queer artists. “Throughout my career, I have championed organizing exhibitions about LGBTQ artists and acquiring works for our permanent collections by LGBTQ artists,” she explained.

She has worked on many Day with(out) Art exhibitions, in commemoration of what is now World AIDS Day. She has served as a committee member, a host committee member, an art selection committee member and an honorary chair for Art for Life since its beginning in 1989.

The CMA also organized a survey which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which features “more than 200 works of art and related visual materials that explore the profound impact of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ) Civil-Rights movement on the art world.” The exhibition, Art after Stonewall, opens at The Grey Art Gallery at New York University and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City on April 24; it will then be showcased at The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum in Miami, Florida starting September 14, 2019, and at Columbus Museum of Art starting February 14, 2020.

“Art can open our eyes to different views, different perspectives, different cultures and different worlds, as well as what we share in common. Learning about our differences and our sameness is the key to empathy, understanding and peace among all peoples and nations of our planet,” Maciejunes said, regarding using art as a tool for advocacy. “Art is the best of us. It’s the ultimate end of a creative process that allows each and every one of us to express how we view and experience life, which is the essence of humanity. If we are not inclusive in the stories we are telling, we are not telling the story of humankind.”

Maciejunes is elated and humbled to be honored as an Ally for the LGBTQ+ community. In her eyes, “it is important to have both advocates within and allies standing beside communities when you are being a catalyst for change.”

Equality Ohio is honoring Luster Singleton as an outstanding Advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Singleton is a native of Zanesville, and is “proud to be from ‘Y-bridge river country.’” Singleton is fascinated by the intersections of ‘isms’ and how it informs/instructs positive perceptions of “faith” and gender in our daily lives.

They are a graduate of The Ohio State University, where they received both a Master’s degree and Bachelors of Arts degree in Women’s Studies. A former coordinator of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services and director of Ethnic Student Services at OSU, Singleton is also a 14-year veteran coordinator of the Pride Family and Teen Area for Stonewall Columbus’ yearly Pride Festival.

Singleton has a 30-year reputation as an accomplished and beloved gender performer, and is best known for their gender bending portrayals of the sassy Lustivious Dela Virgion and the savvy Luster Dela V. They are the co-founder and visionary of 1990’s nationally and internationally acclaimed drag king troupe, H.I.S. KINGS and IDKE (The International Drag King Extravaganza), which was featured in several documentary films and toured with theater productions.

Our community is coming together to honor these incredible activists for their work as role models for our local LGBTQ+ community. “Being a role model means you are being a catalyst for change,” Maciejunes said. “It means you recognize and respond to injustices you perceive in your community not by abandoning your community for a new community, but by becoming involved to facilitate change. It means mentoring young curators and artists to help them become everything they can be and to encourage them to live their truth.”

Visit equalityohio.org for more information Equality Ohio’s inspiring work. You can follow them online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. RSVP for the event online at equalityohio.org/columbus-alliesadvocates-2019.

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