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Pride Promenade to kick off Small Town Pride events and celebrations

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A group of Carrboro residents — including Mayor Damon Seils — participate in Queer Ride Carrboro’s “Ride Into Pride” event on May 31, 2023.

During the month of June, the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will collaborate to hold a series of events in celebration of the third annual Small Town Pride.

Chapel Hill Pride Promenade, the first Small Town Pride event, takes place on June 3.

Attendees will gather on the Peace and Justice Plaza at 179 E. Franklin St. and march down Franklin Street at 2 p.m.

The march will end at 140 West Plaza, where there will be a celebration featuring art of many varieties, including sculpture, interactive mural-making, drag and DJs.

The set-up will be anchored by a 13-foot-tall pyramid titled “The Queeramid” — a month-long installation for Pride by Durham native Julia Gartrell.

Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, the group organizing the event, chose Gartrell for the job through a public call to artists. 

Steve Wright, the public art coordinator for Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, said the Town intentionally sought out local artists for the project.

“That’s always a great way to guarantee that the art that is placed in a particular community speaks to that community’s vision and way of life,” he said.

Gartrell said she enjoys the challenge of making art that is both immediately accessible and multi-layered enough to invite reflection from the community at large.

“When I’m making public art, I really try to think of, ‘How can I make a piece that gets read on multiple levels?’” she said.

She also said that viewers may focus on the colors, words or history present in the piece.

Gartrell’s sculpture nods to both the history of pride and its present battles.

“It’s still a fun and celebratory piece, but it's also hopefully getting people to think a little bit about where we've come from and where we still need to go as a culture,” Gartrell said.

Freddie Bell, a Hillsborough-based artist, will also host an interactive mural project at the June 3 event.

Attendees will be invited to respond to a prompt that says “What are you proud of?” by painting on blank wooden walls.

Bell said that the question references Pride Month but also other potential sources of pride.

“I’m thinking, we love having this designated time to express pride in our queer community. But we’re here all year long — and the flip side of that is I’m proud of a lot of things about myself,” Bell said.

Naomi Dix, a drag artist from Durham, is also set to perform at the event. Dix said she uses drag as a conduit for both creativity and activism. 

“Drag is not only performance, but it’s also being a speaker, being an advocate,” she said.

Dix said she was looking forward to the event because of the opportunity to educate onlookers who may not be familiar with drag culture — something especially meaningful in the context of recent anti-drag legislation, including in North Carolina.

“One of the things that I always say is that the fight will never be over, but the fight will only get stronger — and it will only get stronger as long as we continuously have that visibility,” she said.

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Bell said locals are receptive to art and that both towns offer a lot of creative opportunities.

“I think there’s a lot of pride in the community in Orange County, and I think that then naturally translates to queer pride and pride for the LGBTQ community in a way that is very organic,” Bell said. “The person in the community as a whole is celebrated and recognized.”

Chapel Hill and Carrboro will host several other events in celebration of Small Town Pride. To see the full schedule, visit the Town of Carrboro’s website.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com