Each year, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the artistic contributions of the LGBTQ community with its WeHo Pride Arts Festival (formerly known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival). The festival runs for 40 days, from Harvey Milk Day on Monday, May 22, 2023 through Friday, June 30, 2023, which marks the end of Pride month.
For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Pride celebration in Southern California, as hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world make West Hollywood their destination for the Pride season. A complete list of this year’s WeHo Pride Arts Festival events, along with #WeHoPride Weekend events (June 2, June, 3, and June 4), is available by visiting www.wehopride.com.
The City of West Hollywood will celebrate Harvey Milk Day and kick off its WeHo Pride Arts Festival at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 22, 2023, with the first annual José Sarria Drag Pageant, organized by the City of West Hollywood and HIT, and co-sponsored by the Imperial Court. The event will take place at the West Hollywood Park Aquatic and Recreation Center’s Respite Deck, located at 8750 El Tovar Place, adjacent to West Hollywood Library.
In addition to the Drag Pageant, there will be a voter registration table, a Harvey Milk Day photo opportunity, and custom typewriter poetry provided by Pride Poets. Pride Poets is a cohort of LGBTQ poets who create custom poetry for the public on typewriters and which was founded by current West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace for the City’s LGBTQ Arts Festival in 2019. Pride Poets participation in this event is funded by a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant. The City’s Harvey Milk Day event is free to attend, however RSVPs are required at https://2023harveymilkday.eventbrite.com
José Sarria was the first openly gay person to run for office in the United States, helped pave the way for Harvey Milk’s successful run for office, was a well-known drag performer under the name the Window Norton, and founded the International Imperial Court System which is one of the oldest and largest LGBT organizations in the world. The competition is hosted by Maebe A. Girl, who became the first drag queen elected to public office in the United States, after being elected to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in 2019. The judges are City of West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, and Queen Mother Kamala Samala, and Emperor Eugene Maysky of the Imperial Court.
Drag Queens and Kings are invited to compete for the crown in three rounds: Formal Wear, Question and Answer, and Talent. Anybody interested in entering the pageant should email Sean Knapp at firstname.lastname@example.org by May 21, 2023. Details will be emailed to those who register.
Highlights of the 40-day WeHo Pride Arts Festival include:
· Angelic Troublemakers Exhibition, June 1, 2023 – August 24, 2023 at West Hollywood Library, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The City of West Hollywood and HIT present a curated exhibition of digital drawings and photographs, received from an open call to artists, relating to the theme LGBTQIA+ Pride. The title was inspired by a quote from Bayard Rustin, “We need every community in a group of angelic troublemakers.”
· My Own Private Rodeo, by Coyote Park, June 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023 at ONE Gallery, located at 626 N. Robertson Boulevard. In collaboration with ONE Archives Foundation, the City of West Hollywood and HIT presents My Own Private Rodeo, an exhibition of new works by Coyote Park, a 2Spirit, Indigenous (Yurok) Korean-American transgender artist who asks, “What does it mean for myself to exist in a way that my elders weren’t allowed to?”
· WeHo Reads: Pride & Joy in the Matrix, Wednesday, June 14, at 7 p.m., online. In collaboration with Lambda Literary, the City of West Hollywood and BookSwell present LGBTQ+ authors who are taking a hard look at society IRL and virtually, pinpointing the ways we come up short in connecting with and loving each other. More information: www.weho.org/wehoreads.
· Drag Story Hour, Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 11a.m., at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard. The City of West Hollywood and the LA County Library present a series of story time readings by drag performers for children of all ages, this month featuring Amber Crane.
· Beautiful Things Craft Market, Saturday, June 17, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the West Hollywood Community Center at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The City of West Hollywood and HIT present a one-day craft market featuring local LGBTQ artisans’ ceramics, fiber and textile crafts, handmade jewelry, and more.
· Q Con presented by Prism Comics, Saturday, June 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Plummer Park’s Fiesta Hall, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Q Con is an LGBTQ comic convention (comic con) celebrating the diversity of LGBTQ comics, games, and popular media with a fun and festive Costume Contest being held at 3:30 p.m.. This program is funded through a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.
· Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles Free Concert, on Saturday, June 17, 2023 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. GMCLA performs a free one-hour concert with songs from their recent concerts featuring the music of Queen, Motown, Sondheim and our favorite Pop Divas. This program is funded through a City of West Hollywood Arts Grant.
· Queer Book Bazaar, Saturday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Plummer Park’s Fiesta Hall, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. The City of West Hollywood and HIT present a market and exhibition of local book dealers, independent publishers, and literary vendors.
· Banjee Ball presents Haus of Telfar’s Who’s Bad Ball? on Saturday, June 24, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Plummer Park’s Fiesta Hall, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. A fixture in LA’s ‘Kiki’ scene, Haus of Telfar joins Purple Crush, the music directors of HBO Max’s Legendary, to bring the Who’s Bad Ball, a celebration of the incredible artistry and ferocity of Ball Culture.
More detailed information and a full list of the City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Pride Arts Festival 2023 programming is available at www.wehopride.com/artsfestival.
In addition, archived online programs from 2020 and 2021 are available to view. Among these is a collection of short films which tell the fabulous, fun, and deep LGBTQ history of the City of West Hollywood called the Stuart Timmons West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour. Acclaimed author/historian Stuart Timmons (author The Trouble With Harry Hay, co-author of GAY L.A., former executive director of ONE Archives) was in the process of writing his West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour as the final in a trio of walking tours (Downtown Los Angeles and Silverlake are the other two) when he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008. The tour remained incomplete until the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division funded its completion as part of the City’s 2015 LGBTQ Arts Festival, allowing Timmons and a small team to help finish his research, bringing it to completion as both a self-guided walking tour and a special in-person event featuring performance artists as tour guides. This fun and informative tour returned for two more years, and in 2021, was recorded as a collection of short films that can be viewed on the City’s WeHo Arts YouTube channel.
The City of West Hollywood’s WeHo Pride Arts Festival is organized by the City’s Arts Division. The City of West Hollywood is committed to providing accessible arts programming for residents and visitors. The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including: Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Urban Art Program (permanent public art), Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, the WeHo Reads literary series, Free Theatre in the Parks, Arts Grants for Nonprofit Arts Organizations, Library Exhibits and Programming, the City Poet Laureate Program, Drag Story Hour, Human Rights Speakers Series and the WeHo Pride Arts Festival. For additional information, please visit www.weho.org/arts.