New mural features message to Green Bay’s LGBTQ+ community
Chue Lo hopes his mural lets the Green Bay-area’s LGBTQ+ community know they are seen.
Sarah Kloepping, Green Bay Press-Gazette
GREEN BAY – The more Loschue “Chue” Lo worked on a mural to honor and celebrate northeastern Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ community, the more his first public work of art became bigger than he initially realized.
A panel of judges selected Lo, a gay man from Oshkosh currently studying art at UW-Green Bay, to paint a 12-foot-tall, 24-foot-wide mural on the side of Napalese Lounge and Grille, Wisconsin’s second-oldest continually operating gay bar.
Nap’s, as regulars know it, serves as an LGBTQ+ community center as much as a bar. It has hosted wedding ceremonies, support groups and more since it opened on South Broadway in 1982 and relocated to 1351 Cedar St. in 2000.
Lo thought the public art project would give him a chance to explore his artwork and celebrate northeastern Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ community.
“Then it developed more into doing this for the community, for the Black and brown people in this neighborhood,” said Lo, who is Hmong American and noted the Napalese is within a majority minority part of the city. “It became very personal, as well, to my identity as a queer person of color. This is no longer just about me doing artwork. This is about the community, about me giving back to the city of Green Bay.”
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The mural was not the only thing that has blossomed into something more than originally planned. An idea to celebrate the mural’s completion with a party resonated with LGBTQ+ community members and the broader Green Bay community so much that it’s become a three-day event.
Lo’s mural will be unveiled during A Weekend of Pride!, a multi-faceted celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and support in the region, said Justis Tenpenny, who has helped organize the event along with Martha, a bi-gender member of United Artists, a group that seeks to give a voice to underrepresented artists. Tenpenny said community sponsors and the city of Green Bay have eagerly collaborated on the idea.
“This feels like a pivot point where it’s not just queer organizations doing queer things. It feels like a very important moment for us. Visibility is so important. It inspires others to do other things,” Tenpenny said. “So much blossoms from one thing.”
Lo’s mural uses the Progress Pride Flag, designed in 2018 by non-binary artist Daniel Quasar, for a base. Lo overlaid that with paintings of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, which he hopes will spur people to learn about their importance to the LGBTQ+ community.
“They are two trans women of color who made huge contributions to the gay liberation era and never got any recognition for it,” Lo said.
Lo also added a phrase that means a lot to him: “We will be seen.”
“Even in my teenage years, even though I was out and open, I always felt like no one really wanted to see me being gay or me being a Hmong person. They just wanted to not talk about those things,” Lo said. “Your identity is really important and I believe you should be able to talk about those things. I hope the message I can convey is to basically help the trans youth of color here in this neighborhood feel visible, feel validated, feel like they’re being heard.”
A Weekend of Pride! begins Friday evening and runs through Sunday afternoon. It includes live music, food trucks, a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, the mural unveiling, a drag show, and a ceremony to re-open Napalese Lounge’s front door to the public featuring Mayor Eric Genrich, a move made possible by a façade improvement grant from Green Bay’s Redevelopment Authority.
Cedar Street will be closed from Baird Street west to the edge of the Napalese Lounge property. Cedar Street will remain open at Irwin Avenue to preserve access to businesses and properties like Mi Tierra Food Market that are also on Cedar Street.
Parking options in the neighborhood include lots at the southwest corner of Main and Baird streets, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building on Main Street, the lot on Main Street across from the Art Garage, lots at Green Bay East High School and Joannes Park, and on-street spots in the neighborhood. Attendees also can park at the NWTC Artisan and Business Center lot, 1417 Cedar St., after 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
There’s a lot more happening in the surrounding neighborhood, too. Here’s a look at three other Weekend of Pride! events.
Trans, gender-nonconforming youth event
Transgender, gender non-conforming and gender-diverse youths, their families and community allies are invited to a meet-and-greet from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Green Bay, 1313 Main St.
Jasmine Lammers, a licensed gender specialist who counsels gender-diverse people via her Sheboygan-based business Transformative Services LLC; and Rachel Maes, an assistant city attorney for the city of Green Bay, will lead the event.
Often, Maes said, gender-diverse people in northeastern Wisconsin have few positive examples to look to, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Gender diversity is someone whose gender identity or expression does not conform to the cultural expectations that go along with their sex assigned at birth.
“We want to give them the opportunity to realize they’re not alone,” Maes said. “I think it’s a big reason there’s a stigma around the transition and coming out: A lot of times they do it in isolation. There’s fear of how people will accept, tolerate, embrace that individual. (This event) is not just some nebulous, online social network type of connection these individuals are making. They’re tangible, real-life people who are local.”
Lammers counsels gender-diverse people in cities and rural towns alike, but said Wisconsin does not have “anywhere near enough resources” to help everyone grappling with the mental, physical, legal, social and medical questions they face.
“People don’t see us or realize we’re normal people,” Lammers said. “They often also think we’re out to convert the youth because we’re having things like this. In reality, the youth are already searching for it.”
Our Voices: An exhibit of local LGBTQ+ stories
For two years, a UW-Green Bay faculty member and Archives Department staff have spearheaded an effort to collect oral histories, memorabilia, documents, records and photos from northeastern Wisconsin LGBTQ+ residents.
The results of their efforts to date will be on display at The Art Garage, 1400 Cedar St., from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Students, faculty, archives staff, LGBTQ+ alumni and community volunteers collaborated to create the exhibit.
Our Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories of Northeastern Wisconsin includes a timeline of LGBTQ+ history, details on nightlife, pictures the Archives Department has collected, and pieces of history like a leather poster from the Argonauts Leather Club, which was founded in Green Bay in 1974, said Deb Anderson, of the UW-Green Bay Archives Department.
Students, faculty and staff saw a need to preserve and document a part of northeastern Wisconsin’s history that was disappearing, Anderson said. So far, students have interviewed 20 LGBTQ+ residents, mapped Green Bay bars and researched local LGBTQ+ artists. The UW-Green Bay Archives also has become the official repository for records from support and advocacy groups like Rainbow Over Wisconsin and Positive VOICE.
“LGBTQ+ stories are missing from northeastern Wisconsin’s narrative,” Anderson said. “I’m proud and honored to try to correct that absent voice, for students to see themselves in the history. Now they can see themselves and know that their story is important.”
Our Voices is not a passive display. Attendees will be offered the chance to share their own stories of northeastern Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ culture and community.
“I want people to understand this isn’t a finite one-and-done project. This is a living, ongoing project,” Anderson said. “There are more stories to be told. We want to make sure we are preserving history. We view it as a living archives, not a dusty, attic archives.”
Starlight Pride Bicycle Ride
Weekend of Pride! teamed with the Green Bay Bicycle Collective to organize a community bike ride in the east-side neighborhoods around Napalese Lounge.
The ride is open to everyone, is family-friendly, and begins at 9 p.m. Friday in the Joannes Park parking lot near Green Bay East High School. The ride will be less than 4 miles long and ends at Napalese Lounge.
Participants are encouraged to wear helmets and to adorn their bicycles with bright lights and other decorations to show a commitment to inclusivity as well as for enhanced visibility during the nighttime ride.
A Weekend of Pride! schedule
Our Voices: LGBTQ+ Stories of Northeastern Wisconsin, an exhibit curated by the UW-Green Bay’s Archives Department and installed at The Art Garage, will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The Starlight Pride Bicycle Ride will begin at 9 p.m. Friday and is being supported by the Green Bay Bicycle Collective.
The Napalese Lounge block party runs from 2 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday The mural will be unveiled and the front door opening celebration will happen at 6 p.m. Saturday.
There will be a COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday on Cedar Street.
Live performances on Saturday include Jeff and Maria Hinnendael at 2:30 p.m., Dani Maus and Chris Campbell at 3:30 p.m., a drag show emceed by Wy Nonna at 7 p.m. and Tarl Knight and Bob Balsley at 8 p.m.
Transgender and gender non-conforming people can meet from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Green Bay, 1313 Main St.