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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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Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together

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Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

This project was originally an idea that I wanted to do secretly aka illegally, but my business partner came up with a better idea. And that was to get other artists involved and pay them during the stay-at-home order. 

The whole time we honestly didn’t think we would be able to get approval on all the permits we needed, but thanks to Lori Baudro, over a month and a half we got permission and permits from the Department of Public Service, ODOT, and the Arts Commission. We were honestly in shock. 

When it came down to businesses, we started working with Tim Cousino, who’s an architect. He figured out all the measurements we needed. From there we had to get our hands dirty and clean the surface of the bridge, which had five 9-foot around dirt piles that we shoveled off.

Once the surface was prepped and ready to go, we had Jacob Bench come out. He’s an engineer that helped translate all of Tim’s measurements. The project would have been 10 times more difficult without him! 

Through the process, we slowly grew the team. David Greenzalis is my partner in crime so he was there from the beginning. Katie Bench, Hawke Trackler, Lisa Celesta, Ariel Peguero, Chris Blain, Patrick Cardwell, Eric Terranova, Sam Rex, and Justin Paul, who has taken the amazing footage everyone has seen. All of these people are passionate, hardworking, and just awesome to be around. I was excited when we all came together. 

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was green-lit very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

There’s a combination of reasons everything moved so quickly (in terms of government) ha-ha. Part of it was the fact people were at home; they wanted something to get excited about. This was a project people could easily get geeked out about: 400-foot long mural on the bridge that has been abandoned for 10-plus years! I think they just wanted to see if it could happen. Also, the bridge will be torn down in a year or so; this means the mural doesn’t need any upkeep. The fact it was temporary made it an easy Yes for people. Still in shock this all worked out so smoothly.

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

A big roadblock that no one could help was the weather. Man, was it a beast to work with. When we first started prepping the bridge, it was raining and around 40 degrees outside. We were in coats with gloves for half of the project. Then it rains for almost two weeks straight, which pushed back any painting we wanted to do. The days when we did get to work was easily 95 and scorching! We were all burnt to a crisp! It was stressful but fun working with this crazy Ohio weather.

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

Art is truly the bridge between thoughtful conversations and action (pun intended). Public art specifically can be the most impactful since it’s meant to be viewed by everyone. There’s no fee to look at it, no dress code, no need for art knowledge, just acceptance and appreciation are necessary. 

Art in general helps people look outside of their own personal bubbles. We can see into someone else’s mind for a split second and become apart of the art and experience. I think we forget that art is a living representation of us, but I hope through this unsure time we start to remember why humans started painting in the first place.

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

Originally the mural was made because I personally felt alone and knew so many other people were feeling the same way during the stay-at-home orders. Once the project actually started to become a real thing, “we are stronger together” became more about the people who were working together; so many different types of backgrounds and artists. People from different periods in my personal life, all coming together and making something epic. 

When it was all said and done, the words are made for everyone, from any background, race, gender, far and wide. It’s a message that I hope makes people know I’m with them, that no matter the craziness in the world, someone’s got your back.

 

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Columbus artists employed to paint boarded-up downtown for #ArtUnitesCbus

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The Columbus arts community has really stepped up to the plate when it comes to trying to unite and inspire during tumultuous times. One of the latest efforts from visual artists around the area includes CAPA and Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) latest partnership, #ArtUnitesCbus.

“When I do these projects, I try to remember to have fun and enjoy my loved ones. Even though it’s a bad time, there’s always room for love,” visual artist Hakim Callwood said.

The creative venture will exist to employ around 20 Columbus visuals artists. Their job will be to paint murals in place of the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and GCAC office. 

The art installations are expected to be finished by the end of the week.

“#ArtUnitesCbus is just one small way the arts community is trying to help. These murals are not the answer, simply a message that we ALL can, and must, help heal our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President & CEO of the Arts Council, in a GCAC press release on Monday

Now more than ever is an extremely important time to give our community artists a platform. 

“The Columbus artists are more of a family than I think people understand,” Callwood said. “Whether we all talking every day or hanging out together; it doesn’t matter. When there’s times of need we always use our talents to support.” 

Check out the progress of their murals below.

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Weekend Roundup: 5/29 – 5/31

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With Ohio slowly starting to fully reopen, initial in-person gatherings have trickled into our news feeds.

Below are a few things you can check out over the weekend if you’ve been itching to leave your house and are capable of following COVID-19 guidelines.

Friday

Fair Food Weekend @ Oakland Nursery

One of the most disappointing summertime cancellations was the axing of the Ohio State Fair. For those still wanting to get their elephant ears or deep-fried oreo fix, Chester Foods will be bringing a pop-up food truck to the Oakland Nursery. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried oreos, fresh-cut fries, and lemonade shake-ups will all be on the menu. Fair food will be set up on both Friday and Saturday.

Time: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. | Address: 4261 W. Dublin Granville Rd.

Saturday

Sonic The Hedgehog/Jumanji: The Next Level and The Hunt/The Invisible Man @ South Drive-In

With movie theaters in Ohio still closing their doors, the drive-in revival has been sweeping the state, nation, and world. Once drive-ins were given the go-ahead by DeWine, South Drive-In began to provide the double feature experience to eager moviegoers. Admission is $9.50 on Friday/Saturday and $7.50 on Sunday for those 12+, $2 for ages 5-11, and free for those under 4.

The showings for this weekend are as follows: 

Screen 1:

  • 9:05 p.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
  • 10:53 p.m. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
  • 12:56 a.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (Friday/Saturday only) 

Screen 2:

  • 9:25 p.m. The Hunt (R)
  • 11:05 p.m. The Invisible Man (R)
  • 1:09 a.m. The Hunt (Friday/Saturday only)

Check out the South Drive-In website to see what social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Time: Arrive 1-2 hours prior to first showing | Address: 3050 S. High St.

Sunday

Reggae on the Patio @ Skully’s Music-Diner

If you’re in search of a relaxing Sunday, look no further than Skully’s. The music venue/bar will be opening its patio for those to have socially distance hangs, drinks, and wings. Skully’s will be setting the mood perfectly for a chill Sunday by spinning reggae music all night long. Get yourself out of the house and go catch some island vibes.

Time: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. | Address: 1151 N. High St.

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