Embrace the LGBTQ+ rainbow with a spectrum of events celebrating community, individuality and inclusivity

By Christina Campodonico

Kick up your heels for Pride celebrations all month long
Image by Leo Garcia for Highways Performance Space

Venice Pride

After making a big inaugural splash in 2016 and an even bigger one in 2017 with the christening of an all-rainbow Lifeguard tower, Venice Pride returns for its fourth iteration with three fabulous events on Saturday (June 1): a big “Beach, Please!” beach cleanup form 8:30 to 11 a.m., starting at the Brooks Avenue Venice Pride Lifeguard Tower; the Venice Pride Sign Lighting and Block Party
from 4 to 11 p.m., where Windward Ave. meets the Venice Boardwalk; and the official after party of Venice Pride, beach-themed “Gaywatch,” ($10) taking over all three levels of The Victorian (2640 Main St., Santa Monica) from
9 p.m. to well past midnight.


SaMo Pride

Santa Monica is bursting with so much pride this year that it can’t be contained by one weekend. During the entire month of June expect pop-ups, dance parties and bursts of color activating downtown Santa Monica from the pier to Third Street Promenade. Arts District-based open air food market Smorgasburg LA kicks things off from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (June 1) with over 90 food trucks and vendors on the Santa Monica Pier. Enjoy colorful
eats from Donut Friend, Lobsterdamus, Amazebowls and Korean Mandu truck Workaholic.

Sundown marks the beginning of a month-long display of kaleidoscopic colors across downtown Santa Monica, including a canopy of rainbow-colored twinkly lights along the Promenade (which also features giant flags representing the various facets of the LGBTQ+ movement and quotes from LGBTQ+ people), the pier bathed in a spectrum of colors, and illuminating “Lanterns of Love” hovering over Santa Monica Place every Thursday evening from 3 to 6 p.m., when the shopping center’s Center Plaza hosts live music.

Get your body grooving with Happy Hour Agency’s House Aquatic Pop-up parties, which take over the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium on Fridays and Saturdays from June 14 to 29. Inspired by the whimsical world of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and decadent ball culture, these immersive cocktail parties peppered with performances indulge the inner-child while appealing to adult sensibilities and benefiting Heal the Bay. (Tickets are $45).

If you’re more in the high school to college-age bracket, the Santa Monica Pier’s merry-go-round building hosts the 8th Annual LGBTQ+ Prom (annualqueerprom.splashthat.com) on June 8 for youths ages 14 to 20. (Tickets are $5 at the door, but early RSVPs are encouraged). And on Sunday, June 16, the Santa Monica Pier becomes the dance floor for L.A. Pride’s Youth Silent Disco, starting at 7 p.m.

“We’ll be hosting a variety of wellness, food, art and social events that bring the community and their allies together to celebrate, educate and connect,” says Negin Singh, executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Corp., which is spearheading SaMo Pride. “Our iconic Santa Monica Pier, which sees over 10 million visitors from all around the world, has long been a beacon of acceptance and inclusivity for all —we wanted to go the extra mile and show our pride to the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, showing the world that the pier will always stand for respect, compassion, and love.”


Sip & Sketch @ SPARC

Venice’s Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) also gets in on Pride celebrations with its June 1 Sip & Sketch life drawing session from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The series, designed to explore identities and body types not usually portrayed in traditional figure drawing, will feature two activists from the LGBTQ+ community as models — Latinx poet Cynthia Gonzalez, who also serves as director for the queer Latinx art and film festival CineArt, and Giuliani Alvarenga, an aspiring lawyer.

“June 1 is kicking off pride month for us … so we’re exploring gender identity and intersectionality in that life drawing class,” explains SPARC Arts Education Coordinator Davida Persaud.

Tickets are $25 and include a flight of wines from the Monterey coast by J. Lohr and complimentary cheeses for you to nimble on between sketch sessions.


Behold! Highways’ Queer Fest 2019

You could say Highways Performance Space got a jump on Pride this year with the kickoff of its “Behold!” queer theater arts festival in early May in tandem with a celebration for its 30th birthday.

The fêting continues Saturday (June 1) with performances curated by theater artist Shruti Bala Purkayastha, honoring femme individuals from across history and the LGBTQ+ spectrum. (The show, titled “Femmecestor Journies” starts at 8:30 p.m.; tickets are $20 to $25.)

Mark your calendar for a reimagining of Ron Vawter’s one-man show “Roy Cohn/Jack Smith,” which portrays the sharply contrasting lives of two of America’s most notable gay men from the 1980s, on June 8 ($15 to $20), and a second 30th birthday party for Highways’ on June 29. Styled as a “Rainbow Fashion Show,” the bash celebrating the history and meaning of the rainbow Pride flag features a rainbow runway, prizes and pop-up performances co-hosted by the California LGBT Arts Alliance ($30). Put on your ROYGBIV best and strut your stuff!

“Behold!” continues with more performances and film screenings — including
a presentation of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors’ ritual cleansing performance “Respite, Reprieve and Healing” — at various times through June 30.