“I’m always on, always thinking,” says Kimberley Bush. She’s a woman bursting with ideas, and as the Director of Art and Cultural Programs at The DC Center for the LGBTQ Community, she keeps finding new and inventive ways to implement them. Her mission is to educate, connect, celebrate, and support the LGBTQ community. Bush has recently was named a Capital Pride Hero for her work within the community. She typically focuses on finding ways to connect artists with audiences, so that LGBTQ artists can share their talents, art, and vision.
It can be very difficult as an LGBTQ artist to get exposure to a paying audience. As a result, many creators in the community are unable to reach financial security through their art. Bush wanted to find a way to support as many artists as possible, but that can be a challenge. Is it enough to display artwork on the Center’s walls, or would auctions do the trick?
Then, she hit upon an idea that was as brilliant as it was simple: she would have an art market that mirrored the Center’s monthly farmer’s market. Every month, artists could come and sell their work at the same time as the farmer’s market, only indoors. They would gain exposure to an audience, while remaining in a place where it was safe to display their work. Bush launched Arty Queers in April 2019, featuring LGBTQ artists of all kinds. Visitors can purchase paintings, jewelry, pottery, textiles, photography, and much more.
The artwork spans over a wide range of themes, but a lot of focus tends to be put on the body in all its physical forms. It can be as bold as it is loving to its subjects. Artists explore with nude photographs, symbols of love, and genitalia, which Bush says that she finds refreshing. “I’m not saying I don’t see [phallic/yonic symbols] in heterosexual artwork, but I do feel like we embrace the physical form of the body and are open to creating work that celebrates it unashamedly,” she says. “It’s very liberating because that’s our reality.”
Bush accepts work of any medium, but says that she sees a lot of photography and paintings, as well as jewelry, handcrafted cards, and recycled or upcycled materials. In three short months, she was surprised to see that artist space was completely sold out, and there wasn’t room to bring in anyone else. But she remains dedicated to showcasing as many creators as possible–so with new approval, Arty Queers is expanding to the Center’s atrium, and Bush can accept up to thirty artists for the growing event.
Generally, anywhere from 150 – 200 people attend every month, so artists gain a lot of exposure very quickly. But Arty Queers isn’t the only program Bush is focused on. She’s also developed Reel Affirmations, a monthly international LGBTQ film series and annual film festival; OutWrite, an annual literary LGBTQ festival; and the annual Queer Theater Festival. There are quarterly panels and speakers throughout the year as well.