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The New (Para) Normal

Lori Gum sure knows how to put the perfect pitch on a project. After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, she and her cohorts now have a pile of cash ($35K-plus!) to produce a web docuseries, that even in the wild world of crowdfunding stands alone as novel: They’re gonna hunt some queer ghosts. Gum and [...]
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Lori Gum sure knows how to put the perfect pitch on a project.

After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, she and her cohorts now have a pile of cash ($35K-plus!) to produce a web docuseries, that even in the wild world of crowdfunding stands alone as novel:

They’re gonna hunt some queer ghosts.

Gum and friend Shane McClelland have been used to paranormal skeptics, but after handful of trips last year with predominantly straight ghost hunters, they were unable to suspend disbelief that every spirit on the other side was reaching out to their straight spouse.

“If we contacted an entity that we thought was male—immediately it would be followed up with questions such as…. “What was your wife’s name… and did you have children?” Gum said. “I mean c’mon…. the LGBTQ (Queer) community through the centuries has been disproportionately incarcerated, disproportionately committed to insane asylums and disproportionately worked in theaters and opera houses…. all of the places where ghosts are found by traditional ghost hunters! And you mean to tell me that on all of these shows and hunts…. No one has found a queer ghost?!”

Then and there they hatched the plan for Queer Ghost Hunters, which started as a Stonewall Columbus project before it was determined as the next project of LGBT filmmaker Stu Maddox (of Reel in the Closet fame). The project, to their knowledge, is the first of its kind in the world.

“No one is asking and no one is creating a safe space where these entities can tell their stories and be their authentic selves,” Gum said.

The results have been revelatory. Gum says that in reaching out to spirits no one had bothered to contact before, they’re unlocking not just a supernatural pathway, but potentially ending the suffering of a spirit—long a staple of paranormal investigation.

“I truly believe that the afterlife is rampant with the oppression that occurred during their real lives,” she said. “That is why we are doing this—and to tell their stories … of how they had to deal with this persecution during their lives. Many of [their] stories were never heard because their sexuality and gender expression were criminalized and their stories buried and snuffed out of the history books.”

“Our mission is to unbury those lives and bring them to public knowledge and literally re-write the history of our community—a history of the forgotten and lost.”

The group that the show will follow now consists of six members, including Katy Detrow, the series’ queer historian. She does a complete history of each venue from a queer perspective, and alerts the group all “queer red flags,” as Gum puts it. “Spinsters, unmarried men and women… sodomy convictions, etc.,” she said.

Despite many of the existing television shows surrounding the practice being rife with “straight, white-male machismo,” Gum says that the paranormal community has not only been accepting of their mission, but have been thrilled to hear of their findings.

“By the end of the night they are always compelled at what we have found and usually ask us to send them our queer history,” Gum said. “Most of these guys have spent 20-30 years ghost hunting and they are just excited to get any new research or connection to all entities that might have not been otherwise contacted. And on a few visits… by the end of the night…. They have confided that their son is gay… or their niece is transgender. It is all pretty freakin’ amazing to us.”

Which, is part of the undertaking for the QGH—retroactively creating a safe path for those who have come before us.

“Most of the entities have tried to pass during their material life as heterosexual—which was expected and the safer route. But what we’re finding is spirits will open up to us, and share these secrets. Through our research we typically select a location where we believe the entities that we are searching for may have been closeted in life,” he said.

It’s a series that isn’t just expanding the LGBT landscape, but adding new depth to the field of ghost hunting as well, since previous hetero-paranormal methodology, “excludes a part of the population and doesn’t lead to new discoveries,” according to McClelland.

“We [have an] opportunity to really restore a page to the history books,” he said.

Gum recognizes that there can be some novelty in breaking down a sub-demographic of a practice that already has it’s detractors, but she thinks the mix of serious soul-searching and campiness is the genius of the series.

“We have a very fun time … queer people are very funny—and I think our queer ghost entities respond to that,” she said. “How nice to laugh at oneself not only now, but 100 years ago.  And I think our community is happy to come along with us and have fun—and learn about our bold, fearless LGBTQ ancestors.”

Now, you can come along with the QGH team, motoring their sedan emblazoned with a ghost flying a rainbow flag, in search of the Lesbian Nun Ghosts of rural Ohio and all other forgotten souls. For more, visit queerghosthunters.com.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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