The Queer Teacher Mixer group held a gathering at the Chicago History Museum recently, and guests had a chance to view the museum's Out in Chicago exhibit as well as socialize and meet new people.
Founded by AJ Jennings, Therese Quinn and Erica Meiners in February 2011, the mixer is a quarterly social gathering for LGBTQ educators to share stories and build a community. The group has members ranging from pre-kindergarten teachers to university professors as well as dance instructors from a variety of schools and universities in the Chicagoland area. Past gatherings were held at various school spaces and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Of the group, Jennings said, "Its aims are to recognize that queer educators are often silenced about their identities and the mixers give us a chance to realize we aren't alone."
"It's important to support the work that public institutions, such as museums, are doing to archive diverse queer lives and bringing our educator gatherings to these places is vital to that effort," said Meiners.
The event was attended by approximately 25 people who noshed on food provided by North and Clark Cafe. Following the reception, School Programs Manager Heidi Moisan introduced Public Programs Manager Elizabeth Garibay and Out in Chicago curator Jill Austin.
"It speaks volumes about its [Out in Chicago] success because of you all," Garibay said. "We determine success by visibility, outreach and repeat visitors to the exhibit. The LGBT community has been unbelievably engaged and positive." Garibay also explained the history of LGBT programming at the museum over the last 10 years and previewed the facility's upcoming LGBT-related events, including the annual "Out at the CHM" lecture series. Garibay also mentioned the upcoming "Out in Chicago' iPhone and Android app that will be released in February. The app will tie into the exhibit, giving people access to LGBT history and locales in Chicago right on their smartphones.
Austin called Out in Chicago (a three-and-a-half-year endeavor) "a complete labor of love and has really been a transformative project for the museum. It really allowed us to go very deep in terms of the programming, interaction and audience-building, based on the seeds we have been planting for the past 10 years or so. ... We will continue to collect LGBT history and document it." She then explained the genesis of the exhibit before guests launched into a self-guided tour of the exhibit.
For more information about the queer teacher mixers, e-mail email@example.com . See chicagohistory.org/planavisit/exhibitions/out-in-chicago to find out more about the Out in Chicago exhibit that will run through March.