Three Artists on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor

Segment of one of the original eight-color rainboy flags, donated by the Gilbert Baker Foundation in 2021. Photo by Matthew Leifheit

Feature image: Segment of one of the original eight-color rainboy flags, donated by the Gilbert Baker Foundation in 2021. Photo by Matthew Leifheit via GLBT Historical Society

Three Artists on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor

The National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the historic Stonewall Inn seeks to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of LGBTQ individuals who “have paved the road to liberation and contributed significantly to progress for LGBTQ people.” Several of its 72 honorees are artists. Kick-off Pride Month by learning about these trailblazing creatives and their important works, often addressing their identities' struggles and joys.

What is the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor?

The National LGBTQ Wall of Honor is at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York City. It was unveiled on June 27, 2019, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The Wall of Honor debuted with the names of 50 initial honorees, with five to seven new honorees added each year. The honorees on the wall include LGBTQ “artists, activists, federal workers, and others” who are no longer living and have substantially impacted the LGBTQ community.

Stonewall Inn, 2011, InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 _https_creativecommons.org_licenses_by-sa_2.0_, via Wikimedia Commons
Stonewall Inn, 2011, InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The National LGBTQ Wall of Honor, created by the National LGBTQ Task Force and the International Imperial Court System, is the first U.S. National Monument to honor LGBTQ rights and history.

“The 50 leaders recognized represent some of our most vibrant changemakers and serve as a reminder that each one of us has a role to play in achieving freedom for LGBTQ people. While we create this wall as an honor, we know that our liberation will be achieved by bringing down walls and ending barriers. I invite everyone to honor those who have come before us and to be inspired to work for all that lies ahead,”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, at the Wall of Honor’s unveiling in 2019.

Artist Honorees

Gilbert Baker

Gilbert Baker was born on June 2, 1951, in Chanute, Kansas. A gay activist and an artist, he was best known for creating and designing the rainbow flag, which is now a worldwide symbol for the LGBTQ community.

Gilbert Baker, 2012, Gareth Watkins, CC BY 3.0 _https_creativecommons.org_licenses_by_3.0_, via Wikimedia Commons
Gilbert Baker, 2012, Gareth Watkins, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

While living in San Francisco in the 1970s, Baker met Harvey Milk, an influential LGBTQ rights activist, and together, they decided the community needed a new symbol, one that they could call their own. Up until the creation of the rainbow flag, a common symbol for the LGBTQ community was the inverted pink triangle, which itself came from its usage in Nazi Germany when the symbol was used to designate and identify LGBTQ people within concentration camps. 

After looking at the various country flags, Baker thought, “a gay nation should have a flag too, to proclaim its own idea of power.” An excerpt from Baker’s memoir, Rainbow Warrior, details the moment he realized a rainbow would best represent his beloved community. While out for a night of dancing at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, Baker took joy in the diverse community he was surrounded by: “Everyone was there: North Beach beatniks and barrio zoots, the bored bikers in black leather, teenagers in the back row kissing. There were long-haired, lithe girls in belly-dance get-ups, pink-haired punks safety-pinned together, hippie suburbanites, movie stars so beautiful they left you dumbstruck, muscle gayboys with perfect mustaches, butch dykes [sic] in blue jeans, and fairies of all genders in thrift-store dresses. [...] We were all in a swirl of color and light. It was like a rainbow. A rainbow. That’s the moment when I knew exactly what kind of flag I would make.”

Replica of the original 8 color rainbow flag, 1998 courtesy of the Gilbert Baker Collection via GLBT Historical Society
Replica of the original 8 color rainbow flag, 1998 courtesy of the Gilbert Baker Collection via GLBT Historical Society

The first design of the rainbow flag featured eight colors, with each having its own meaning. Hot pink stood for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, indigo for serenity, and violet for spirit. Baker felt the rainbow motif was fitting for several reasons: its association with the hippie movement of the sixties, it is an early symbol of hope in “Chinese, Egyptian and Native American [histories],” and as a reference to the Rolling Stones song “ She’s a Rainbow.”

The first two rainbow flags were flown on June 25, 1978, at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. In 1979, a six-strip version became popular, with hot pink removed and turquoise and indigo replaced with blue to save on dye costs. Baker called this version the “commercial version,” which is most often flown at Pride celebrations today.

Baker died on March 31, 2017, and was one of the initial 50 honorees on the Wall of Honor.

Ivy Bottini

Ivy Bottini, a lesbian activist and visual artist, was born on August 15, 1926, in Long Island, New York. She attended Pratt Institute School of Art from 1944 to 1947, obtaining a certificate in advertising graphic design and illustration. Bottini quickly found work as an illustrator and art director at Newsday, where she worked for 16 years. In the 1960s, she became involved in the developing feminist movement by joining the National Organization for Women (NOW) as a founding member in 1966.

Ivy Bottini, 2019, Maxwell Storey Dubler, CC BY-SA 4.0 _https_creativecommons.org_licenses_by-sa_4.0_, via Wikimedia Commons
Ivy Bottini, 2019, Maxwell Storey Dubler, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In 1969, Bottini designed the logo for NOW, which the organization still uses today. Throughout her time with NOW, Bottini strived to introduce lesbian issues into the movement, which led to her subsequent expulsion from the group by then-president Betty Friedan in 1970.

Ivy Bottini work, via LIVEJOURNAL
Ivy Bottini work, via LIVEJOURNAL

Bottini often painted florals, nudes, and personal statement pieces as an artist. Her work can be viewed on an archived version of her official site.


Bottini died on February 25, 2021, and was added to the Wall of Honor later that year.

Keith Haring

Keith Haring, a gay artist, was born on May 4, 1958, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Perhaps the most well-known artist on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor, Haring, is known for his whimsical, cartoonish pop art. He first gained popularity as a graffiti artist in the subways of New York City during the early 80s, creating chalk outlines of human figures, dogs, and other objects on blank advertising spaces.

Keith Haring, 1986, Rob Bogaerts (Anefo), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Keith Haring, 1986, Rob Bogaerts (Anefo), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Haring’s later work tackled societal issues of the time, including apartheid, safe sex, the crack cocaine epidemic, the AIDS epidemic, and gay identity. Notable works of Haring’s include Ignorance = Fear (1989), Silence = Death (1989), Unfinished Painting (1989), Safe Sex (1985), and Untitled (1987).

Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear via The Gaurdian
Keith Haring, Ignorance = Fear, Silence = Death via The Gaurdian

“Within the last few years, AIDS has changed everything. AIDS has made it even harder for people to accept, because homosexuality has been made to be synonymous with death. It’s a justifiable fright with people that are just totally uninformed and, therefore ignorant. Now it means that you’re a potential harborer of death. That’s why it is so important for people to know what AIDS is and what it isn’t. Because there is the potential for far, far worse things to happen, the possibility of more hysteria or more fascist reaction. It’s really dangerous.”

Haring said of his sexuality and the AIDS epidemic in a 1989 interview.

Haring died on February 16, 1990, at the age of 31 due to complications of AIDS. His death was a devasting blow to the community of which he so heavily advocated in his artwork during the AIDS era. Haring was among the initial 50 honorees on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor.

Keith Haring, Unfinished Painting via Artnet News
Keith Haring, Unfinished Painting via Artnet News

Art for all

These three artists left an impact bigger than themselves and their identities through the power of their artwork, proving that art is a uniting force for all people of any gender or sexuality. The National LGBTQ Wall of Honor gives those who may not be familiar with these heroes’ relationship to the LGBTQ community an introduction to them. By learning their names and sharing their stories, we can ensure that these integral, talented members of the LGBTQ community who have passed on have their art appreciated by all. 


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