Where We No Longer Gather: Liberty Memorial, Penn Valley Park and Public Queer Looks is a site-specific, public engagement project intended to explore the historical and conceptual roles this former Queer space played in the construction of community for the individuals who gathered there in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
To visit the circle drive was like being in a parade – made up mostly of men. People would line the drive in parked cars, with windows down and doors open to share music being played for all those nearby. Anthony Rea’s boyhood memories of this place being a sort of celebration have been confirmed by others who shared their own experiences with him. It is that celebration, that sense of place making and community that he is looking to explore in this project.
As homophobic city ordinances, hate crimes and the AIDS crisis transformed the lives of many during the 80’s and 90’s, they also transformed the public Queer space of the Liberty Memorial and Penn Valley Park. Rea’s interest in this location is personal, artistic and historical – there are very few records, visual or written – other than news stories and connected police reports – that document this history, the time period and its context. This project is an attempt at a document of a community that no longer gathers. It is a record of a celebratory Queer space existing outside of bars or clubs (social or drinking) – one that occupied the public realm and fostered friendships, relationships and other types of communion for Queer people.
The photographic portrait is important to Rea and is the foundation of most of his art making. Within the context of his community it has become an ever more important mode of production, a record and a conceptual visual device to conjure a narrative left untold. In early 2010 he began a portrait project (Portraits of Men in Public Spaces) that explored similar ideas of community, among hidden and visible spaces in Chicago and its surrounding forest preserve locations. These images propelled the foundation of his current project, directing the aesthetic he wants to create, and motivated and confirmed his interest in the portrait as celebration.
This funding will be used initially to promote and gather interest for the project. Rea will then begin collecting audio interviews of first-person accounts, and research additional source material that will drive the image production. All photographic portrait production will take place at and near the site of Liberty Memorial circle drive. He will also host two public forums in the Summer and Fall of 2016 as a way to engage the public around the project and offer additional sites of participation.
The R&D extension for the grant will enable Rea to return later to apply for funding to share the work with the larger community.
Anthony Marcos Rea was born and raised on the Westside of Kansas City, MO as a result of a desegregating public school system through the mid 1990’s. He conducted studies at The University of Missouri at Kansas City where he studied under Photographer/Professor Bill Gaskins until his migration to Chicago in 1999. Continuing his studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus in Photography, Performance, Video & Visual Communication, Anthony received his BFA in 2002.
Shortly afterwards he began working in community-based arts organizations, institutions, and literacy programs in Chicago where he focused on arts-integrated programming, youth development and community-based art programming in the larger Chicago and Pilsen/Little Village communities. A founding member of VILLARTE and the Little Village Arts Festival; Anthony served as the Lead Curator of festival activities through 2014.
A multi-disciplinary Artist, Anthony Rea is also an accomplished Teaching Artist working with institutions and arts organizations from Art Resources in Teaching, Elevarte Community Studio, After School Matters, South Chicago Art Center, The National Museum of Mexican Art, Marwen, Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, Hyde Park Art Center, Changing Worlds and served as Visual Arts Coordinator at the Gary Comer Youth Center in Chicago’s Grand Crossing community through early 2015.
Currently, Anthony Marcos Rea fills the role of Cultural Arts Coordinator at the Mattie Rhodes Center Art Gallery in Kansas City, MO, since he has made a second migration back to Kansas City, MO – where he now works and resides in his former working-class and now gentrified community of the Westside