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Rainbows & Revolutions Exhibit Explores History of LGBTQ+ Coloradans

June 7 “First Friday” opening kicks off Pride Month in Grand Junction thanks to CMU

The stories, successes and struggles of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community are on display in a groundbreaking exhibition in Grand Junction thanks to Colorado Mesa University and a steering committee led by representatives from Colorado Health Network, One Colorado, Colorado West Pride, and Loving Beyond Understanding.  

Rainbows & Revolutions features local and statewide artifacts from the Gill Foundation LGBTQ Archives, a new, permanent collection of History Colorado that spans three generations and includes photographs and authentic artifacts that tell the story of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ movement from 1950’s to today. 

Defining acts of rebellion, self-expression and solidarity are highlighted in this exhibition. Visitors will witness expressions of defiance, from demonstrations for civil rights and equality in the 1950’s, to the high-profile revolt against Denver’s City Council in 1973. Rainbows & Revolutions  dives deep into how Colorado dealt with the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s and teaches about the devastating passage of Amendment 2 in the 1990’s. In a nod to modern times and extraordinary progress, the journey continues with Colorado electing the nation’s first openly gay governor in 2018. 

Rainbows & Revolutions honors the progress of the LGBTQ+ community and pivotal journey over the past decades. Our experiences are part of the story of Colorado,” said Aaron Marcus, Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ+ History at History Colorado and Emmy award-winning researcher. “As a historian, I feel a responsibility to preserve and pass along the stories of the LGBTQ+ community so we can all learn from and add to them. By using our voices to document what we’ve been through, we hope to pave a smoother path forward toward equality and full acceptance to become a truly inclusive and stronger community for everyone.” 

The Gill Foundation is generously supporting the Rainbows & Revolutions exhibition. Through the foundation’s support, LGBTQ artifacts from across the state will be part of the museum’s permanent collection and known as the Gill Foundation LGBTQ Archives.  

“LGBTQ history is Colorado’s history,” said Brad Clark, CEO and President of the Gill Foundation. “It was just 30 years ago that Colorado was known as the “hate state” after passing an amendment that permitted discrimination against LGBTQ people. Thanks to the tireless work of our community over the decades since, we became the first state to elect an openly gay governor, and we rank as one of the LGBTQ-friendliest states in the nation.” 

Locally, the exhibit is being presented by Colorado Mesa University.

“One of the responsibilities of a university is to bring a multitude of voices and perspectives to our community and reinforce the dignity and worth of every human being.  Supporting this exhibit is one more opportunity for us to practice what we preach as a Human Scale University,” said CMU President John Marshall.  

“Thanks to CMU, History Colorado, and the Gill Foundation we’ll celebrate a ‘summer of pride’ in Grand Junction," said Mike Mansheim, a member of the steering committee and Chief Strategy Officer at Colorado Health Network, originally known as the Colorado AIDS Project. “Throughout the summer a series of events – both private and public – will be hosted at the exhibit to raise awareness and support the local LGBTQ community and non-profit organizations that serve them,” Mansheim said.  

Rainbows & Revolutions is on display at CMU’s downtown gallery at 437 Colorado Avenue in Grand Junction. Admission is free during the gallery’s regular operating hours Monday through Saturday from 2-7pm and the exhibit will run from June through September.  

The public is invited to the First Friday opening on June 7, 5-8pm, to kick off Pride Month in Grand Junction.  

Several private sponsor and community receptions are planned, including: 

  • An evening to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on Saturday, June 29, from 5-8pm, hosted by the university and is open to the public.  
  • An evening to benefit the Basinger Scholarship at CMU, named after local LGBTQ activist and community leader Jeffrey Basinger. This will be hosted on Basinger’s birthday, July 8, 2024, 5-7pm.  
  • An evening to benefit One Colorado, Monday, August 5, 5-7pm.  
  • Colorado Health Network will host an evening specific to the impact of HIV/AIDS on Coloradans on Thursday, August 15, 2024, the 40th anniversary of the death of AIDS activist and public health nurse Bobbi Campbell who died of AIDS-related illness on August 15, 1984.  
  • Colorado West Pride will host a community reception on Friday, September 6, 5-8pm during Grand Junction Pride Week.  

The local community can also add artifacts to the exhibit. Thanks to the generosity of the Gill Foundation, History Colorado has been proactively working with the LGBTQ community to build a research archive that preserves and promotes the contributions, history and voices of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community. The Grand Junction ambassador committee will host an event where western slope community members can learn how they can add artifacts to the exhibit. Potential donors can contact History Colorado at [email protected]. 


Written by Staff