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SMU Students Commemorate LGBTQ+ History and Community with Exhibit, Film, and Pride Visibility Day

A new student-led, interdisciplinary research project at SMU titled the PRIDE Project is using an exhibit and film to explore the history and stories of SMU LGBTQ+ students and their search for equality and recognition. Managed by a diverse group of LGBTQ+ students and allies, the PRIDE Project combines archival, oral, and institutional history to better understand the queer community’s roots at SMU. The new initiative culminated on April 29 with Pride Visibility Day, a campus-wide event that recognized the SMU LGBTQ+ community and established new traditions, such as awards honoring faculty mentors and student leaders.

Founded by SMU senior and 108th Queer Senator Bri Tollie, the PRIDE Project launched in August 2021 with the help of SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning and over 10 campus partners, including Residence Life and Student Housing, who funded film equipment and marketing materials for the project. Since its launch, the PRIDE team has interviewed 14 queer SMU students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as hosted the first-ever Queer State of the University Address at SMU on February 11th, 2022. Along with this event, the Project research informs students and administrators for ongoing community event planning and campus policy reform.

SMU Queer State of the University Address
Pride campus leaders respond to audience questions at SMU’s Inaugural Queer State of the University Address. Photo by Ash Thye.

The PRIDE Project research is displayed in a campus exhibit and in a film that debuted at Pride Visibility Day.

The exhibit, “In Search of Belonging,” opened on Saturday, April 23, in the Hamon Arts Library with a reception and comments from exhibit curators, Ash Thye and Leia Hannum, and other PRIDE project leaders and mentors. The visual representation of the research features a graphic exploration of quotes, portrait photographs of interviewees, and archival materials documenting early LGBTQ+ organizing efforts at SMU. More than 50 SMU students, faculty, and staff attended the opening, along with Dallas community members, including Mr. Richard Neal who co-led SMU GLSSO (Gay and Lesbian Student Support Organization) in the early 90s. The exhibit runs through May 23 at the library, located in the Owen Arts Building, 6101 Bishop, SMU campus. Due to campus construction, enter through the south entrance to Owen Arts Building.

SMU PRIDE Exhibit: Quote and Portrait
18 portraits and oral history quotes relay the faces and voices of SMU LGBTQ+ students, faculty, alumni, and staff. Photo by Madi Tedrow.
Dr. Gardner, Director of the SMU Women and LGBT Center, gives closing remarks at the PRIDE Exhibit opening reception.
Dr. Sidney Gardner, Director of the SMU Women and LGBT Center, gives  remarks at the exhibit opening reception. Photo by Madi Tedrow.

The PRIDE@SMU film, featuring video from the oral histories, debuted at 7 p.m. at Pride Visibility Day, Friday, April 29 on Dallas Hall Lawn. The inaugural festival, also founded by Bri Tollie, was planned by a committee of 12 SMU students, led by Event Director Liana Forss. The festival included food from Soulgood vegan restaurant, a “Queer Boulevard” with LGBTQ+ resources, activity tents, and market vendors, and entertainment by singer Semler and local DFW talent. The inaugural Bill Beauchamp Award for faculty excellence in mentorship and academic activism was awarded to Dr. Maxime Foerster, and the Bill Nelson Award for community activism and representation was awarded to SMU senior Bethany Bass. Nearly 500 people attended the festival, including SMU students and faculty, Dallas community members, and high school students from the DFW area.

Photo of Dallas Hall during Pride Visibility Day.
SMU Dallas Hall Lawn during Pride Visibility Day on April 29th, 2022. Photo by Lexi Shamir.

The In Search of Belonging exhibit is still open to the public. For more information visit here.

Archival documents at the SMU PRIDE Exhibit
In Search of Belonging Exhibit: archival newspapers, letters, and documents from the 1980s to the late 90s. Photo by Madi Tedrow.

Follow SMU Pride Visibility here and the PRIDE Project here.