Turning Up: 9 NYC Artists Talk Pride, Nightlife, and Community

Turning Up: 9 NYC Artists Talk Pride, Nightlife, and Community

With Agent Orange in the White House, right-wing extremism on the rise, and black, brown, queer and trans folks living in a state of emergency every damn day, we need justice and joy and art and politics more than ever.

As we celebrate our queer brothers, sisters, and ancestors this Pride season and beyond, it’s important to remember that being proud is about more than just rolling through and looking cute at the turn up. Queer nightlife, which we should never take for granted, is where all the arts—music, sound, fashion, design, performance—come together to create a total experience. Creativity and nightlife give us a temporary break from the duress of everyday life while allowing us to express and reinvent ourselves, connect with each other, and stage new communities.

INTO caught up with nine NYC-based artists, creatives, and club connoisseurs who embody this connection between art, queerness, politics, and nightlife. Their stories illuminate the small ways we can lift other marginalized folks up, and highlight the larger social impact queer art and nightlife can have.

FET FET

Describe your art/pursuits/work in 7 words.

Sweet as sweat and roses, and everything nice.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

The Pride Flag has been evolving ever since Harvey Milk asked Gilbert Baker to design a symbol of the gay community on June 25th, 1978. A debate exists over whether inspiration for the rainbow came from Judy Garland’s passing close to the Stonewall riots and her singing “Over the Rainbow,” or whether it was inspired by the symbol of world peace from the Flag of the Races.

The original flag had hot pink, but later it was omitted based on readily available fabric colors. We need to choose our battles within our current state of idiotic political trolls. If there’s a chance to uplift another minority within our community, why not? I say I don’t really care, aesthetically speaking, so I think, sure, go ahead and update it!

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

Art should always build healthy conversations and political debates. It is a healthy and hopefully non-violent way to challenge other folks’ ideas as well as your own. Art is about creating beauty, sparking ideas, seeking out the truth, seeking out more understanding, and seeking out a world with more beauty and compassion – through love, diversity, and PRIDE!

LAURICE FOX

Describe your art/pursuits/work in 7 words.

Communicator. Connector. Creator. Music. Experiences. Content. Partnerships.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

Creativity is the first and most important vertical in my opinion. Without innovative and socially conscious creativity, there is no added value to nightlife, fashion, and art. All of these categories are overflowing in metropolitan cities, and if there’s no story or unique quality brought to what’s being produced and put out into the sphere, then to me it’s a waste of resources and time.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

Why would brown and black need to be added to the Pride flag!? One of my favorite quotes is from a famous fashion designer (Riccardo Tisci), who said: “Black is always elegant. It is the most complete color in the whole world, made of all the colors in the palette.”

If every color is in black—and I’m pretty sure you can mix colors in the rainbow to get brown— then it’s not necessary. Instead, celebrate vibrancy and the way it resonates within EVERY color.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

More collaboration and more platforms to celebrate queer artists, collectives, and influencers. I do believe that art already plays such an important role in the queer community, bringing people together to release and self-express through music, dance, and visual arts.

ROBI D LIGHT

Describe your art/pursuits/work in 7 words.

I am an open-format DJ and producer.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

Openness. And a willingness to be weird.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

How do you feel when you spot a rainbow? Exactly. Seeing a rainbow brings us joy and excitement, which is what I feel during Pride season (and all the time, really). As a symbol it is unifying; rainbows happen everywhere. On that, we can all agree.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

From queer variety shows to the Safe Word Society podcast, we are creating space for ourselves through art.

TOMMY HART

Describe your art practice/pursuits/work in 7 words.

Actor, athlete, hustler, optimistic opportunist, renaissance bro.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

Nightlife is the epicenter of culture for me; it’s where all the arts come together to create an experience. I love immersive theater, and a great party feels just like that to me. You get a bunch of creatives together in one space having a good time, and the rest of the world pays attention to what happens next.

I like to surround myself with artists who push the envelope and bring something to the table—people who are passionate about actively contributing to our culture. That’s really sexy to me. And it encourages me to grow and ask myself how I’m contributing, too.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

The rainbow flag began as a symbol to unite us and give us visibility in a world that denied us of our rights. Now, we raise the flag to remember where we came from and take pride in where we’re going. If it’s important that your flag has a few extra colors—black, brown, pink, white, whatever—I’m cool with it. It’s not about me individually; it’s about all of us owning what it means to be gay. Ultimately, we all know what it’s like to feel different.

EROL SABADOSH

Describe your art practice/pursuits/job in 7 words.

I’m a DJ, musician, curator, and producer.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

I think they bring something crucial. Nightlife, especially queer nightlife, is about freedom and celebration, and it’s where a lot of queer people get to express themselves without fear. Fashion and art also reflect and facilitate these same things, and all of these creative pursuits can be used to make statements, or they can simply be functional or entertaining. But either way they are part of the heart and soul of the human experience and provide an escape from the mundane.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

I approve of the sentiment, but I hope that we can continue to do more to rectify the marginalization and hardships that POC face rather than just raising awareness through things like this, especially in the queer community. We need to act in order to create the inclusive and fair society we want to achieve. We can’t just be conscious of injustice and leave it at that. The next step is actualization.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

My art is music and I will mostly be DJing events over Pride. I’m looking forward to seeing people coming together to dance and celebrate and getting to be a part of that. It means a lot to me.

SIENNA BERRITTO

Describe your art practice/pursuits/work in 7 words.

Experiential, rewarding, innovative, challenging, profane, audacious, truthful.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

Nightlife is the essence of expression. The freedom to be who you are creatively intertwines with culture and intrinsic being in a manner that exists so effervescently. I gain artistic inspiration from some of the great nightlife attire and the people here in New York.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

The more colors the merrier! The pride flag is already a symbol for life, healing, harmony/peace, and spirit. Adding more colors with beautiful interpretations means that the community is doing as it should.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

Art is the expression of humanity’s creative skill and imagination. The queer community is all about utilizing our imagination and skills to come together and love each other and ourselves for expressing who we are. With art, the queer community can only become stronger and connect even further to grow.

SHO TANAKA

Describe your art/pursuits/work in 7 words.

Fashion stylist and graphic designer.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

Fashion and nightlife themselves are a reflection of social, economic, political, and cultural changes. Many people are inspired by fashion and nightlife because it exposes them to different types of people and learning about different cultures.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

I think adding colors does not make the flag more inclusive.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

I don’t think art can make our communities come together 100%. But it does do some work towards it. Art is one of the tools that can help us send the message we want to send to other people.

MICHAEL MOLINA

Describe your art/pursuits/work in 7 words.

I am a fine art photographer.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

I actually really respect and understand the decision that was made to add black and brown stripes to the Pride flag. I feel, as a community, we are the most loving and accepting. I hate to bring up race, but for the past couple of years, many people of color have been victims to hate crimes and lethal force. We need to let those affected know that we welcome them with open arms, that we fight hate with love regardless if we too experience homophobia, discrimination, and hate.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

Art has always brought queer and non-queer communities together. So many artists throughout the years have made queer art or have been queer. I think other outlets like TV/media, social media and politics need to better understand us and represent us better as a community.

JERMAINE MITCHELL

Describe your art/pursuits/work in 7 words.

Life-giving, fun curator of extravagant events.

What value do you think nightlife, fashion, art, and creativity bring to contemporary culture?

It contributes to the landscape of expression which transcends into popular culture and, ultimately, commerce and revenue.

What are your thoughts on adding black and brown to the Pride flag? Is the Pride flag unifying?

It’s not a major deal in my eyes. I get it, but I don’t see it shifting or changing things.

How can art bring queer communities together this Pride season and beyond?

Art can showcase many talents in the queer community. It’s a way to unify the cause of our community.