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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: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

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And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

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If you haven’t visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city’s hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area’s evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

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With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: Cousin Simple to wow crowd with energy, passion

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As a young up-and-coming band, Cousin Simple is excited to play at this year’s Columbus Art’s Festival. In their two years as a band, they have already done a lot of really cool things, such as making a single with L.A. multi-platinum music producer David Kershenbaum, playing at Vans Warped Tour at Blossom Music Center, and selling out shows at the A&R Bar, the Basement and The Big Room Bar. But there is much more they want to accomplish including recording more music, making a music video and playing more shows in and out of Columbus.

The band members are all Columbus born and raised. Four members currently attend The Ohio State University, while their drummer Joel is finishing up his junior year at New Albany high School. Cousin Simple brings an energy and passion to the stage and gives everything they have to their performances, regardless of the crowd size. They just released a new single in February called Honeybee, available on iTunes and Spotify and have a single set to release May 10 titled “Star Destroyers.”

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Columbus is a great city for musicians. Whether you’re in the indie, rock, or hip hop scene, there are other musicians and music industry people willing to help you out. Columbus also takes a great sense of pride in its “local gems.” People love to see musicians who are doing well in their hometown and are willing to support them in many ways.

There are so many organizations that have taken this to heart and are helping bands get great opportunities. CD102.5, WCBE 90.5, PromoWest Productions and the Columbus Music Commission have helped Cousin Simple get airtime, shows and support. When it comes to music cities, Columbus may not be the first place that comes to mind, but there are so many bands and musicians doing exciting things it’s making the future bright for them and the Columbus music scene.

But Cousin Simple recognizes that none of this would be possible without the support of their family, friends and FANS that come to each and every show. They are humbled and motivated by their audiences who energize them to make every performance an experience their fans won’t forget. 

Cousin Simple will perform on the Big Local Music Stage on Rich Street on Friday night, June 7 at 7:45 p.m.

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