DOVER — Across from Legislative Mall, the Biggs Museum of American Art has a front-row seat to Delaware’s annual Pride Festival, a celebration of all identities and accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ community.
And, while the Biggs traditionally offers free admission during this activity — set for June 10 — its leaders sought a way to connect more directly.
In its new initiative, “A Vision of Pride,” the museum has committed to commissioning or purchasing a work from a Delaware LGBTQ+ artist each year to be featured on an outdoor banner during Pride Month and reproduced as collectible prints for festival attendees.
These works also will be eligible for accessioning into the collection to expand representation of LGBTQ+ artists in the Biggs.
“The Biggs’ goal was to envision beyond Pride Month, establishing a more lasting impact on the museum and its visitors. We crafted this initiative to say more than, ‘We accept you, and you are welcome here.’ We wanted to say, ‘We truly see you, and you can see yourself here,’” said Michael Dudich, the facility’s director.
“As the years progress, and the collection grows, we’ll have a fuller representation of local LGBT art and artists that help us stay true to our mission to preserve mid-Atlantic art, while representing a diverse audience.”
The first artist to have a piece featured is local LGBTQ+ icon Murray Archibald, co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth, along with his late husband and longtime CAMP Rehoboth executive director Steve Elkins.
Mr. Archibald has served the organization in many ways since its creation in 1991. From 1993-2018, he was president of the board of directors, and for three decades, he served as creative director. Following Mr. Elkins’ death, he served as editor-in-chief of Letters From CAMP Rehoboth and as executive director.
He also is the creator, co-founder and (until 2021) producer of the annual Sundance benefit, as well as a past president of the Sussex County AIDS Council and a lay leader at Epworth United Methodist Church. In addition, he is a member of the board of directors of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society.
Plus, in 2013, Mr. Archibald and Mr. Elkins were awarded the Order of the First State by then-Gov. Jack Markell.
With a background in theater and art, Mr. Archibald produced his first solo exhibition in 1984 in Washington, D.C. In the following decades, he created annual shows in New York, D.C. and Rehoboth Beach.
His favorite themes continue to resonate in his current work, with heart and spirit — and transformation — the building blocks of his shows.
“The world is a mess,” he said. “Somehow, we have to learn how to live together, to respect and celebrate our diversity. In order to thrive, we have to grow — we have to change, and the idea of change can be terrifying.”
According to the artist, the Biggs’ featured piece, “Drag Revolution,” is a satirical poke at the idea that there is a need to regulate drag queens.
“Drag queens occupy a unique place in the world,” Mr. Archibald said. “Their campy, larger-than-life personalities allow them to move outside the boundaries of our cultural norms — and to boldly speak the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.”
Biggs curator Laura Fravel shared the reasons for choosing the Archibald art.
“Murray is at the heart of Delaware’s LGBT+ community. His work at CAMP Rehoboth has helped to support its mission of creating a more positive world, with room for all,” she said. “So many of his paintings are joyful in a way that feels powerful. I’m delighted that Murray will be an anchor for our museum’s new initiative.”
Look out for the Murray Archibald banner on the front of the museum throughout June. And visit the Biggs during the Pride Festival on June 10 on Legislative Mall to get a free collectible print and free admission.
The original art will be displayed in Mr. Archibald’s latest exhibition in the CAMP Rehoboth gallery until June 30. The location is 37 Baltimore Ave.
The Biggs Museum of American Art is at 406 Federal St. It is open Thursdays-Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.