5 Moments that made me cry in the 1st ever art exhibition as wedding: Miami IS Nice


Recap

7 months later, and people in Baltimore STILL talk about this press worthy show that attracted almost 1,800 people through the gallery doors...

People have told me: “This was the best show I have EVER seen in Baltimore”...“Museum quality… “My favorite place!" and much more

This monthlong art exhibition and wedding was even featured on Hyperallergic and The Baltimore Sun!

Well, what was this thing?! Lemme tell you. It was the first Creative Union that proved the power of art and it's capacity to tell our stories in deeper and more intentional ways, even in weddings. It was all made possible by this neon family in a little less than 2 years:

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  • Nick Horan & Zachary Z. Handler were the lead organizers and artist couple who wanted to get married in a Golden Girls inspired art exhibition. So they emailed me before Creative Unions became, well...Creative Unions! Read about the story about how it all started here (I swear, it’s like they read my mind before even meeting me).
  • Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Contemporary (aka an art angel) was the co-curator who helped me manage this beast!

Ask any wedding planner, and they will brag about the linens they chose, the outfits their clients wore, or how boho-chic their dinnerware setup looked. But this was different. Simply put, it was a monthlong art exhibition full of art that questioned who Miami is nice for, what it means to be queer, combined with art about 1980's Miami, neon, and escapism. 

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It was a Creative Union. A Creative Union is a specially curated art exhibition and marriage ceremony that brings people together to celebrate and express your love story.

Our mission was completed as we created a 1980's Miami escape from the struggles of being queer under today's political climate. This art exhibition was a temporary home to artworks by 45 artists (yup, you got that right - 45 :wink:), a series of public programs, a photo booth (aka Blanche’s bedroom), hundreds of pounds of gold glitter, and Nick & Zach’s wedding.

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Miami is Nice served as the ultimate setting for a gay wedding celebration in order to inspire a world where love wins. Three public events became a natural part of the exhibition as imagined by Nick & Zach, so that the greater Baltimore community from all walks of life could enjoy the month long celebration with the help of Creative Unions Event Design, Management, and Consulting services.

There were too many emotional stories to tell. It was hard to only pick 5 (Part 2 coming soon, I guess). I am not sure how to document and capture all of it...but all of these moments will be in my heart forever. Thank you to all the artists who provided this platform for the community to shed smiles, tears, and sniffs of 80's perfume nostalgia. Oh, and thanks to the puppies that came through too.

After selling artworks with proceeds donated to two LGBTQ organizations: SAGE and Trans Women of Color Collective, I was proud but also sad to see this exhibition come down. I still think about it often, and get teary eyed sometimes, but below are more of my favorite moments with old and new friends who visited "Miami is Nice".

You can see more behind the scenes moments on my personal IG @michelleigomez and follow @creativeunions to see what is next! Hint: an afrofuturist themed art exhibition and wedding in DC, coming next year!


5 Moments that made me cry in the 1st ever art exhibition as wedding: Miami IS Nice

1. Wearing an 80’s vintage sequin shirt from Burdine’s during a conga line! (and crying in front of my Grad School Director)

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Besides the fact that over 500 people from all walks of life joined us for a steamy opening that felt just like a Miami summer,  I absolutely loved starting a conga line thanks to Gloria Estefan. I was wearing my Mom's vintage 80s sequin top from Burdines, dancing with friends from Miami and Baltimore in an art gallery. I was basically living my best life. In fact, that's how I always imagined my dream life. I then cried in front of George Ciscle. If you do not know him, look him up.

We also enjoyed Golden Girls inspired drag performances by Shaunda Leer! I especially loved seeing our guests interact with our various engaging activities including:

  • manicures and conversations about queerness with Porn Nail$, one of our artists who hailed all the way from Miami,
  • shuffleboard,
  • taking pictures in front of the #Lovewins backdrop by Anya Mizani,
  • taking pictures in in Blanche’s boudoir thanks to our Pixilated photo booth,
  • taking glitter dime bags home,
  • and touching other interactive installations and sculptures!

All of that fun stuff listed up there? ^ That is art. And a very fun art opening!

 

2. Reminiscing nostalgic memories of the Golden Girls during Cheesecake Conversations: An Evening with Stan Zimmerman and H. Alan Scott

For many LGBTQIA+ folks growing up in the 80's, The Golden Girls was an important symbol of strength, subversion, and profound acceptance. In light of #nationalcomingoutday, we invited folks to join us for a live broadcast conversation to discuss the past, present and future of The Golden Girls and the love it inspires with one of the original screenwriters of this iconic television series, Stan Zimmerman and H. Alan Scott, co-host of Out on the Lanai podcast. (They even sat on a vintage 80’s couch that looks just like the one in Golden Girls!)

Over 100 Golden Girls fans joined us as we took photos in our Pixilated Photo booth in Blanche's bedroom (thanks Accent Wall!), we devoured amazing cheesecakes made by Travis Marley with sparkling pink wine, talked about Stan's experiences on the Golden Girls set, shared childhood memories of this iconic television show, and discussed art making as a form of resistance in the age of Trump.

One story that particularly moved me involved a Puerto Rican gay man who watched The Golden Girls on repeat with his hardworking mother sharing laughs every day.

Also, look at H. Alan's GG tattoo:

 

3. Queer Performance Evening: Nerutrippy and Dr. 305 bring Baltimore and Miami to Miami (in Baltimore) 

I absolutely loved all of our 13 performances from our queer performance evening (and closing reception!) My favorite performances truly represented two worlds that beautifully merged the cultures of Miami and Baltimore.

Dr. 305 did some funny AF stand up comedy making jokes about her move from the 305 to the 410. She ended her skit with the line..."But Baltimore is nicer!

Neru & The Hippy Trippy Collective ended the night with dim lights and poetic rap, making us all feel reflected and at home in Baltimore.

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The queer performance evening ended with all kinds of age groups dancing together in Halloween costumes for the occasion! 

PS - That night, we also hit over 1,600 guests, just look at the joy in my face! Also my fly AF nails were customized just for Miami is Nice by Power Decals!

 

4. The Wedding ceremony (with a keytar!) 

The morning of the wedding, the entire team changed the exhibition, adding sculptural 80's centerpieces made by Alice Gadzinski, a white balloon installation called "3pm Showers" covering the ceiling, and Golden Girls decor. 

That evening, Nick & Zach's closest family and friends were greeted by Elvis impersonators at the door as they entered their own private art opening reception. The ceremony began with their dearest friends Sarah Beth Oppenheim & Kate Folsom of Heart Stück Bernie performing a specially choreographed dance that brought everyone to tears. Nick & Zach’s guests then contributed loving messages and secrets to the altar. :sings Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River":

Their ceremony took place in front of a specially made sculptural backdrop titled “#Lovewins” by Anya Mizani. Anyone who visited the show before and after the wedding was invited to take a picture in front of that backdrop with their loved ones too!

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Nich & Zach's vows were just as creative as the show itself, and included a keytar rendition of “Thank you for being a friend” by their officiant Nyugen Nyugen, some episode clips of the Golden Girls, a marinara sauce ritual, vows performed in art jargon, and Golden Girls masks worn by the audience!

We danced the night away to 80’s music with grapefruit shandy in our hands after more creative performances by their closest friends.

The Golden Girls inspired decorative remnants, the vows, and the balloons from the celebration stayed in the space for the remainder of the exhibition as an additional art installation. The intention behind this was to symbolize how quickly the saccharine opulence of the 1980s came crashing down, and reminded all viewers of the ever-present fragility of the queer experience in America while paying homage to those four remarkable female characters who played such a prominent role in their upbringings.  

There was also fresh cheesecake available in the exhibition every day after the wedding. 

5. Eating chocolate left in the gallery overnight the day after the wedding

Warning: So this moment involved eating leftover cake crumbs the morning after the wedding...please don’t judge me (I was slightly hungover)!

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The next morning, I opened up the gallery so the public can see the additional art we added to the show for the wedding + the mess we left behind after dancing to 80's music all night long. Guests saw it all...confetti all over the floor (and in my hair), food leftovers, and the remnants of this cake table that had 20+ specially made cheesecakes devoured by Nick & Zach's friends and family.

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Guests even saw me cleaning up the mess, dragging garbage cans, and folding linens (we left some of the mess including the confetti as "wedding remnants" for the exhibition). I even gave some visitors additional confetti to throw around the gallery when they browsed the art. One visitor bonded with me while eating chocolate left on the table (which he knew was left in the gallery overnight). #youonlyliveonce 

Oh, and Reggie Wells even paid us a visit (you know, Oprah's make up artist, NBD).

So why should visitors see the mess, and the clean up process and why the day after when wedding planners typically clean up right after the wedding is over?

In this special case, the artist lead team valued all those in between moments as a part of the "art". Weird, right?! Yea. I would also add that this whole #BTS art performance just added to the whole queer AF approach to subverting wedding traditions.

My point is...The wedding industrial complex pressures us to only share the "perfect" moments of our weddings. In addition to those perfect shots of our beautiful uneaten cakes, I also find beauty in the messiness of it all.


Reflection

As a curator turned wedding planner, this was the largest project I embarked on up to date (and my first wedding). Although there were many challenges and lessons learned behind the scenes, over one thousand people benefited greatly from a show that reflected their personal stories. It's been so inspiring to see all kinds of people walk through those doors, and even more inspiring to see them open up to us with their traumas, their histories, their joy, and everything in between. It proved that art really does connect us, including strangers.  

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Nick & Zach told me I made their dreams come true. But in reality, they made dreams come true for those who saw themselves in this show and found a place to freely express themselves in a joyful escape. They also made MY dreams come true by believing in my vision, and trusting my advice when it came to curating and community outreach. They helped me to believe that that with art, anything is possible. Even in a wedding. 

This was not just about Nick & Zach’s wedding, it was something so much bigger. It's been so inspiring to see all kinds of people walk through those doors to see such a unique wedding that utilizes art to bring all kinds of communities together in the name of love.

It truly was a queer paradise where love wins.

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Thank you for being a friend!

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Thank you to all the artists and performers who provided this platform for the community to shed smiles, tears, and sniffs of 80's perfume nostalgia. Oh, and thanks to the puppies that came through too.

Special thank you to Spacecamp gallery, our volunteers, vendors, and sponsors who made this unforgettable community event and space possible!

Huge thanks to our grant support provided by Free Fall Baltimore from Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts and Awesome Foundation-Baltimore! And a big hug to all our sponsors who donated to our Hatchfund!

 

Featured Visual Artists:

Akea Brown (MD), Alex Ebstein (MD), Alex Schechter (PA), Alice Gadzinski (MD), Alissa Eberle (PA), Amy Boone McCreesh, Andrew Indelicato (VA), Anne Stringer (MD), Anya Mizani (MD), April Pink (MD), Brice Peterson (NJ), Chinen Aimi Bouillon (MD), Colby Katz (NC), Colin Klockner (VA), Danya Smith (VA), Dave Eassa (MD), Diza Hope (CA), LaboMamo by Danilo de la Torre and David Rohn (FL), Devin Morris (NY), Esther Ruiz (NY), Felice Cleveland (TX), Gary Godbey, Hannah Hiaasen (NY), Jackie Cassidy (NJ), Jill Fannon (MD), Warm Brothers by Jordan Parvex (CA), Katie Duffy (IL), Leah Guadagnoli (NY), Leeanne Maxey (NY), Magali Hebert-Hout, Nick Simko (NM), Nick Horan (MD), Polly Mizani (MD), Rachel Debuque (MD), Richard Munaba (NY), Porn Nail$ by Rosemarie Romero (FL), Ryan Lauderdale (NY), Samuel Draxler (NY), Sidney Pink (MD), Spencer Meyers (FL), Hysteria by Tanya Garcia & Valeria Molinari (MD), Tiffany Smith (NY), Tiffany Threadgould (PA) & Kat Tingum (NY), Zachary Z. Handler (MD)

Wedding Performers:

Denise Green

Nguyen Nguyen

Raechel and Vanessa Nolan

Lynne Price

Andrew Sargus Klein

Maxine The Drag Queen and Zac Lawhon

April and Sidney Pink

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Queer Performance Evening Artists:

Ophelia Bones

Dr. 305

Alexander Gallagher

Lurch & Holler

Sebastian Katz

Neru from Hippy Trippy Collective

Pangelica

Brice Peterson

Little Prince

Joseph Reisberg

Sarah Strahorn

Trans Women of Color Collective

 

Special Shout Out to:

Our photographers Kiirstn Pagan, Tiffany Jones and Akea Brown who the photos on this post!

Kiirstn Pagan for all the branding and invitations

UNION Craft Brewing for the beer

Station North Tool Library for building exhibition shelves

Accent Wall Customs for the Banana leaf wallpaper in Blanche's boudoir

Pixilated for the photo booth equipment

Photofetti for the custom confetti

Catering by Copper Kitchen

Bulk Glitters for tons of glitter

The Lapel Project for those Miami Vice lapels

Bash Party Goods for our plates

Ruthlidge Costumes for the Elvis costumes

Echo Neon Studio for the Miami is Nice neon sign

Twigz and Tweed for the plant and furniture rentals!


In loving memory

"Parting gifts from Miami is Nice. Just solidifying the fact that I have found my people!" - Alice Gadzinkski

In loving memory of Alice Gadzinski.

With all my love,

Michelle


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ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.

Introducing Zachary and Nick: A World In Which Love Wins


On February 25, 2016, I had that natural aha moment (picture a light bulb over my head at the beach). I thought to myself, why not think of weddings as art exhibitions that utilize art to express love stories in powerfully unique ways traditional weddings cannot express? With all of the positive feedback from my community of artists, arts lovers, and couples in love, I took a leap of faith and started to build Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the 1st ever event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into weddings. And here we are now...

Look, I have always loved the number 3, triangles and trinities (hence, the Creative Unions triangle), especially when they show up in my personal life (like how the trinity represents my nuclear family of 3 strong women: my mom, my sister, and me or my love of Pitbull, Drake, and J-Lo). My favorite trinity at the moment is the relationship between me, and Creative Union’s pioneer clients Zachary Z. Handler and Nick Horan who you will get to know in this blog post!

How did we meet? Good question! They came into my life so seamlessly. A couple of weeks after I posted that Facebook status, a mutual friend (and amazing people connector) told Zachary and Nick to contact that Miami girl with the red glasses about curating their Miami influenced wedding/art exhibition in Baltimore. When I read that email about them wanting to get married in a Baltimore art exhibition about Miami and The Golden Girls, I was shocked, excited, teary-eyed and amazed by the synchronicity of my life! Talk about perfect timing! I immediately e-mailed them back saying something along the lines of...this is perfect, we are meant to work together, and I am about to launch a company focused on creating the type of weddings you want to have. I was PSYCHED! It was the perfect trinity (:enacts the sign of the cross:).

#TBT to that time I visited Zachary (right) and Nick’s (left)  home in Baltimore to work on their upcoming Creative Union!

#TBT to that time I visited Zachary (right) and Nick’s (left)  home in Baltimore to work on their upcoming Creative Union!

Since then I have been emailing and Skyping them on a regular basis with fellow team member Carlyn Thomas from Terrault Gallery, to consult on the following:

  • Figure out ways they can subvert wedding traditions through art
  • Things to consider when organizing a wedding in an art exhibition in the most intentional ways
  • Exhibition language to describe their deepest intentions
  • Encouraging them to think of their union ceremony, catering, and everything in between as works of art
  • Considering artists and artworks for the exhibition, including their own collaborative artworks
  • Art as a form of resistance and what their union means during today’s political climate

Fast forward 9 months later, Zachary and Nick invited me into their art filled home in Baltimore, Maryland for our second in-person consultation and brainstorming session.

After walking up some steep steps to enter their brick row home, all of the ideas we discussed since the summer of 2016 clicked when I finally had a chance to visit their art filled haven. Seeing teal walls filled with art they made together or for each other, art from their closest friends, Golden Girls books, mugs, and prints, vintage items, a neon sign that beams a bright pink “WERK”, alongside lovely photographs of their travels made me realize why it makes sense for these two artists to get married surrounded by art, and to embark on their latest work of art: their wedding!

I’m excited to continue working with Zachary and Nick in order to ensure their Creative Union is like their home: a safe haven that reflects their authentic selves. Their Creative Union will tell their story of hope, while providing an opportunity for their family, friends, and fellow art lovers to escape into an idealized version of the warm and leisurely energy of South Florida in the 1980s, away from struggles, to actualize a world in which love wins.

Continue reading today’s blog post (on the 3 month anniversary since Creative Unions Event Design LLC launched) that introduces you to the couple who changed my life. :cheers x3:
 


INTRODUCING ZACHARY AND NICK

How did you two meet?

Z: Well, it’s a pretty fun story. I’m a professional dance photographer and had been hired to archive a performance at the University of Maryland College Park. When I arrived to shoot I realized rather quickly that I knew everyone in the large ensemble on stage except for one very handsome young man. When the performance was over, I asked my dear friend Stephanie - who partnered with him throughout the performance - who he was. She smiled and replied that he had asked who I was as well, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! She suggested that I come and meet him at the cast party that friday. I had another photoshoot that night in DC so when I wrapped up I mosied on over to the gathering. When he got there, he seemed surprised seeing me, but sat himself right down in across the table. We talked to only each other for the entirety of that party, and in all honesty, have been inseparable ever since. It’s been a dream come true.

N: I was in my final semester of grad school and was dancing in a typically “arty” MFA Thesis project piece at The Clarice Center. I also happened to be dancing in my underwear. I remember looking out from the stage and seeing this tall unfamiliar and handsome man behind a camera snapping away. It was Zach. I thought he was very cute and asked our mutual friend to introduce us. Unbeknownst to me she invited him to the cast party, we sat across from each other and talked all night. I thought he was charming and funny and I made relentless fun of him for photographing me in my underwear before our first date. Later that night he asked for my phone number and when I drove him back to his car he fumbled saying goodbye and accidentally stuck his hand in my mouth during a really awkward hug. We’ve been together ever since.

Why did you choose to work with Michelle?

N: When we met Michelle we were immediately drawn in by her effervescent personality. There is nothing quite like being in the same room as Michelle. She just explodes with positivity, passion, and creativity. As we started talking it became clear that we all spoke the same art language. That is a remarkable and rare thing indeed. She totally latched on to our aesthetic and instantly began bubbling with new ideas and concepts for our upcoming wedding. I think it was her energy and her deep connection to the art world that really sealed the deal for us. I don't think there is anyone who I would trust more to plan our wedding than Michelle!

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Why do you want a non-traditional wedding with art? Why would you like art to be an integral part of your wedding?

Z: Someone once said to me, “Gee Zach, everything doesn’t always have to be an art project!” My response was, “Yes it does, and, that’s what I like most about myself!” Art is what I do with my everyday, my everything, at every chance, or if not, I make the chance! Art is an integral part of everything I feel I do, so then it has to be the same for one of the biggest days in my/our lives. If it’s not artful, honestly, it doesn’t feel like me, it doesn’t feel unique to me, and I don’t want it. These are values that are very, very important to me.

N: We both come from artistic backgrounds and are not interested in anything remotely resembling a “traditional” wedding. I think art is at the core of our relationship. We create together and inspire each other.

Why do you want to have your wedding ceremony in an art exhibition/gallery?

Z: There’s no place else where I would feel more at home, which is what I want to feel that day. I’m comfortable in galleries, they make sense to me, I can be and say and do and respond any way I like in these spaces. I was going to galleries and museums with my dad by the age of 5. We talked about Rodin, Rothko, and Close. He showed me the power of art, and the welcoming nature it can hold. I guess I want to hold this, and be held by this, on my wedding!

N: I think art galleries have innate potential in them. They are blank slates and that is how I’d like to start my life with Zach. Full of potential!

What inspires you for the union/exhibition?/ Why did the theme/idea of Miami come to mind? Why the 80’s? Why The Golden Girls?

Z: I grew up on the Golden Girls, and I also grew up going to Florida a lot, Pompano Beach specifically, but often we’d visit Miami, since I had so many family members living there. My Mom had a short stint at the University of Miami and I remember her talking about that when I was a kid. Miami Beach was also the place where I believe I first encountered LGBTQ culture and I remember it being like my own little secret, one that only I could capture, in a way. I absorbed from it what I could - a sense of place, of identity, of joy - as I continued to visit with family as I got older. So for me, Florida has always been this magical spot that I have really fond memories of.

My mom always says that The Golden Girls is the only show that ever made me laugh out loud as a kid and she always knew when it was on because I’d be wailing from the living room downstairs. I’d have to ask her when/if she remembers me first watching this as a kid (ie: how on earth did I find this show and what about it kept me coming back? She may have no idea!)

So similar to what I said earlier about growing up going to museums and that feeling of nostalgia that I know and love, this show, this era, this locale feels just like home to me too.

N: We both have a connection to Florida. I grew up in Orlando and Zach visited Miami and Pompano Beach throughout his entire childhood. I have such a nostalgia for the warmth and energy of Florida. I think there is a seabreeze ease there. Not as much hustle as Baltimore. That’s for sure! Zach and I are both children of the 80s and grew up listening to that synthesizer music and watching the movies from the time. I love the aesthetic of the era and the extremes they lived in.

I connect with The Golden Girls on a deep level. It was a very queer show. They built their own family unit together. Struggled to find acceptance in a world that wasn’t designed for them. They battled each other with their wits and humor. The show talked about HIV at a time when the president wasn’t even saying the words out loud. I respond to the gay sensibility of 4 strong independent women talking about sex and love in such healthy and positive ways.

Zach and I used to watch The Golden Girls together over Skype when we first started dating and couldn't be together. Both of us would que up the same episode and press play at the same time. It might have been the gayest thing we’ve ever done. Watch the other person watch The Golden Girls. That show was one of the first things we bonded over and we still watch it every night as we fall asleep.

How do you envision the final outcome?

Z&N: We want a Creative Union that is inclusive, authentic, artful, and full of joy! We trust Michelle to bring our vision, our complex ideas and concepts to life!


In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this honest look into Zachary and Nick’s intentions. Be sure to check back with us for updates as we work with them to create an exhibition and a queer paradise where love wins in October 2017!

#TBT: check out these velas Zachary and Nick made for me featuring my other favorite trinity: Drake, Pitbull, and J-LO. Seriously, one of the best gifts I have ever gotten! Love y’all!

#TBT: check out these velas Zachary and Nick made for me featuring my other favorite trinity: Drake, Pitbull, and J-LO. Seriously, one of the best gifts I have ever gotten! Love y’all!


ABOUT ME

Michelle Ivette Gomez is an arts professional with a love for romance and art, and a passion for bringing people together and telling stories through art. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art where she focused on co-creative curatorial practice and expanding traditional methods of exhibition presentation in collaboration with communities. As the Founder & Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC, the first event planning company dedicated to integrating contemporary art into life’s celebrations, she views marriage celebrations as specially curated art exhibitions that bring people together to celebrate and express unique love stories.