The tears flow when Myndie Van Horn recalls the events that led to the first Celebrate Love gathering in Lewiston.
It was on the evening of the June 2016 mass shooting that left 49 people dead at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. June is Pride Month, and Van Horn was teaching an art class to “a group of friends and fellow LGBT people.”
“In that class we were painting a rainbow ... and we were talking about the need for Pride in the valley,” she said. “We all agreed the next year we were going to make that happen. The next day we woke up to the news of what had happened in Orlando.”
Craig Clohessy: Share how Celebrate Love came together in a matter of days and why the annual event remains so important.
Myndie Van Horn: A group of us got together, my daughter, Victoria Ankney, my daughter-in-law, Afton Bond, Kevin and Elizabeth Black, Rick and Kate Laws and — God, I hope I’m not missing anybody — in six days, we put together a celebration candlelight vigil in Pioneer Park. It was awesome. There was close to 600 people there that night, and it was just an amazing event. So that’s where it started. And now we’re at year four (with this year’s Celebrate Love event planned for Saturday at Pioneer Park). Why is it important? Our LGBTQ-plus community in the valley has been very underrepresented and underrepresented forever. We’ve never had a Pride celebration. Most of my friends have lived in the closet, or they’ve been scared to be out because this is a scary area to be out in. Since starting this in 2016, ... I have friends who are now out of the closet. They’re comfortable standing in front of a group of people talking about their sexuality. I see things like the Transformation Station, which we’ve started in the back room at Art Uncorked (Van Horn’s art studio in downtown Lewiston) for our trans community to come and trade out their wardrobe rather than having to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the store. It’s a location where our trans community can feel welcome and not judged and comfortable trying on clothes, because we’re a judgment-free space. We’re a total safe zone in Lewiston.
CC: So you see the environment changing here.
MV: I think it is. I think it’s getting better. That first year in 2016, I remember looking around and seeing people together that I don’t know if they had ever met before. I saw an entire group of trans women standing in front of me in a line, and I remember thinking, ‘Gee, did they know each other before this event happened?’ So I think freeing people together in this format has strengthened our community. It has caused us to look at support groups, so we’re developing support groups and other events that we do throughout the year. ... Yeah, I think it’s gotten better. I think choosing the name Celebrate Love and not going outright with a L-C Valley Pride has helped with that.
CC: You are the owner of Art Uncorked in downtown Lewiston. If you look at the series of jobs you’ve had over the years, you’ve done a lot of different things. How did you go from bartender to animal control officer and many other jobs to now owning your own business, an art studio?
MV: That’s an interesting story. So I’ve been doing art since my parents gave me my first oil set at 8 years old. Art has always been a part of my life, but it’s not something that I studied in college or even junior high or high school to be honest. I was more in the musical area, and at that time ... you were limited on your electives. I chose to do music rather than art back then because I was going to be a music major. ... I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my lifetime, and I’ve always had the idea that I wanted to open an artist co-op where people share the bills and bring in their art and that kind of thing. ... (A friend) with the city of Lewiston told me about this idea of a paint and sip, which I thought was ridiculous because I thought who would want to do all the same art? And I told him he was nuts, and he told me to go check it out — and then I came back and told him he was a genius. I started doing the paint and sip classes, which is 21 and over. People come in, bring their own bottle of whatever they want to drink and I teach them how to do a piece of art in a couple of hours. Those classes grew into us needing our own space, which grew into a whole new business and expanding within four months of opening.
CC: You’re now in your second location downtown?
MV: We’re actually in our third location downtown. We started in Morgan’s Alley in about a 400-square-foot location, moved within four months to quadruple that — no, more than that — into an over 3,000-square-foot space and then we moved closer in to downtown two years ago.
CC: Is business good?
MV: Business is good. We are celebrating our fifth year in business at our first Friday event, Aug. 2. I never thought we’d make it to five years. It’s crazy. So, I’m excited about ordering a 5-year-old’s birthday cake and getting some live music and some awesome artists in there for a show.
CC: Anything else you want to add?
MV: Well, we have a “Community Connection” session (from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.), also on Saturday at Brock’s (in Towne Square, 504 Main St.). We have Add the Words Idaho, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Idaho and the Idaho Fair Housing Council that are going to be there. It’s a listening session to identify the specific needs in our community. Before the event (Celebrate Love), we absolutely welcome our LGBTQ-plus community there to share. There will also be a drag show at Brock’s after the event, starting at 9:30 p.m.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2251.