Making Miami Nice

Michelle Ivette Gomez - Founder of Creative Unions sitting with Creative Unions’ pioneer couple Zachary Z. Handler (left) and Nick Horan (right)

Michelle Ivette Gomez - Founder of Creative Unions sitting with Creative Unions’ pioneer couple Zachary Z. Handler (left) and Nick Horan (right)

Hey fellow art lovers and lovers of love!

I AM SO EXCITED! I just flew in from Miami to my second home, Baltimore, and I brought all my neon powered Miami energy to help bring Creative Union’s first celebration to life! I’m typing this from a folding table in Spacecamp gallery watching the “Miami is Nice” curatorial team transform this white wall gallery into a queer paradise where love wins. From October 7-28, right where I’m sitting, this 2800 sq. ft room will be home to 45 incredible artist’s works, 3 public events, and Zachary & Nick’s Golden Girls inspired wedding. It’s been a day of painting, sweeping, and reflections on this 2 year journey. I actually had a bit of an epiphany earlier when I realized that we are featuring 45 artists from around the country at the same time as we grapple with the current 45th President’s attacks on the LGBTQ community. Talk about creative resistance, right?!

“Miami is Nice” is more than just a private wedding that takes place in an art gallery. So much more. In fact, I suggest heading over to www.miamiisnice.com for details on the exciting series of programs for the greater Baltimore community. Hint: one of the original screenwriters for the Golden Girls is joining us for a discussion! And there will be cheesecake! You can also stop by the gallery during gallery hours to play Atari video games or watch Golden Girls episodes with me in your PJs. ;)

I can’t believe it’s been a year and a half since Creative Unions began WERKing on our first art exhibition/wedding. Personally, it’s been a rough month. I’ve dealt with the world’s natural disasters and had to evacuate my home in Miami. Fortunately, my house and family are safe but I constantly worry about my family in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria. Returning to Baltimore this week has proven to be the most wonderful gift. It has lifted my spirits and allowed me to laugh again, despite the gun violence, climate change, and everything else wrong with this world. I came up with Creative Unions because I wanted to bring more love into my life and this world.

Nothing else brings me as much joy as working with Creative Union’s pioneer couple, Zachary & Nick alongside co-curator Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Gallery to make this art exhibition, series of programs, and gay wedding a dream come true. As I look around me right now, I am so excited to introduce the world to all of this excess :)

Check out my top 10 favorite behind the scenes moments from this past year while working on the #miamiisnicesxhibition below!

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1. N&Z screen printed hundreds of shoulder pads with their wedding logo as part of their wedding invitation (packed in gold envelopes)!


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2. Seeing the postcard and invitation for the general exhibition and wedding! This was the first “IT’S REALLY HAPPENING” moment.  


3. Ok here’s a mini list. These artworks got me way too excited from the moment I first laid my eyes on them, and this is just a tiny fraction of the entire art exhibition. (And yes, that is a glitter toilet seat that will be featured in the gallery’s bathroom! #artiseverywhere)


4. This Miami is Nice sign is everything.


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5. No Golden Girls themed wedding is complete without Elvis costumes and accessories!


6. I met Sebastian from The Lapel Project here in Miami (yes the guy that was featured on Shark Tank!), and he gave me the “Miami Vice” lapel set for the groomsmen, so sweet of him! Check out the video below to see how the his lapels work. These lapels are so great, you can stick them onto any suit to customize your look so your suit is as unique as you! Thank you Sebastian!


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7. A Golden Girls Wedding? YES! Here is a photo of that time we heard Nick & Zachary’s interview on “Out on the Lanai: A Golden Girls Podcast”! (PS- H. Alan Scott is one of the co-hosts and GG superfans for this podcast...he will be moderating a talk with one of the original screenwriters for Golden Girls on Oct 18th! (See www.miamiisnice.com for event details)


8. When Carlyn drove to NY to pick up artworks from artists and took selfies with (most) of them! Oh how I loved getting these in our Whatsapp chat group.


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9. I have weekly Skype sessions with Nick & Zachary. Sometimes I take screenshots of them when they show me the deliveries they get in the mail for their wedding, like this beautiful martinique wall paper donated by Accent Wall Customs for our Golden Girls inspired photo booth, eeeeek!


Left to right: Michelle Ivette Gomez of Creative Unions, Zachary Z. Handler, Nick Horan and Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Gallery

Left to right: Michelle Ivette Gomez of Creative Unions, Zachary Z. Handler, Nick Horan and Carlyn Thomas of Terrault Gallery

10. When the whole team got together in Baltimore to take this 80’s neon glamour shot!


If you are around Baltimore or DC, I hope you can stop by the opening for “Miami is Nice” on Oct 7, 7-10pm at Spacecamp to say hello, enjoy drag performances, and get your glitter nails done. See you Bmore, miss you.

Yours in 80’s excess and shoulder pads,

-Michelle


ABOUT ME

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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.

Why Unions?

This post is part 3 of 3 from the premiere Why Creative Unions blog series which focuses on the Creative Union’s 3 core values: inclusivity, expression, and community.

#TBT to the usual pic of me with the birthday girl tiara (YES THAT IS A SAILOR MOON CAKE), loving to be the center of attention, as always. PS - I don’t think I am too old to wear tiaras on my birthday nowadays!

#TBT to the usual pic of me with the birthday girl tiara (YES THAT IS A SAILOR MOON CAKE), loving to be the center of attention, as always. PS - I don’t think I am too old to wear tiaras on my birthday nowadays!

I LOVE the feeling of being around a community that I felt like I belong to, who doesn’t? Simply put, we are social animals. It’s the reason why we invite our friends and families to our weddings, birthday parties, grieve with our loved ones when we lose someone close to us, or get together to celebrate graduating with an MFA. Out of all those moments, one tends to get more attention than the others. Guess which one? Yup...your wedding day.

Growing up, I remember other girls envisioning their wedding day. Planning their perfect white dresses, perfect husbands and perfect flowers. Around the age of 10, I questioned why they spent so much time mapping out their quinceañeras and weddings instead of planning their careers as New York City Art Curators and daydreaming about what they would get for their next birthday. I mean, what could be more important than your exhibition titles and Sailor Moon toy collection? Wow, how times have changed...

Looking back, I now understand why young girls are conditioned to think of their wedding as one of life’s most special days. It’s this culturally symbolic moment when you are put on an unattainably high pedestal for all of your friends and family to gawk at and are celebrated for your perfection and your ability to achieve the social pinnacle of femaledom: Wife-hood. The fact that you accomplished this feat before your biological clock ran out makes your achievement all the more impressive. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about life’s special moments is totally normal, especially when it’s ingrained into our psyche based on family traditions, the media, and patriarchy. It’s a choice, and you decide what and how you want to celebrate that choice! #youdoyouboo

If you choose to get married, COOL! But it’s not the only highlight of your life. In fact, it is one of MANY special days that will occur in your life. If you want to get married, do it, and have a wedding. But as a woke person who likes to question all kinds of systems and traditions, I still feel crunchy about the institution of marriage being so deeply rooted in patriarchy and excluding same sex couples.

As Beth Olson perfectly puts it in this article:

If you have a more progressive view of the world, The Wedding Industry and process of planning a wedding in general can be a real enigma. On one hand it’s “Fuck the Patriarchy!” But does that mean you can’t also want a white dress and a dance party?
— Beth Olson, photographer

^ My point exactly! Although I am hesitant to participate in these patriarchal and exclusive traditions, I still find so much value in bringing people together to celebrate life’s moments the way I choose to, especially on my wedding day.

I want to share my love story without feeling pressured by old traditions. I want to fight the patriarchy and cut my cake at the same damn time (and eat it too). But more importantly, I want to share that day with the ones I love most.

Image source from  One Room With A View

Image source from One Room With A View

There’s another tricky part...where do you draw the line with invitations to your Creative Union?

When I think of weddings, I mostly imagine a spotlight on a couple celebrating their love in front of 100+ people. I assume that the couple’s closest family members, friends, and loved ones are there to party with them. Unfortunately at every wedding, you see those stray work acquaintances with their Tinder dates who only want free booze and were invited so you could avoid future work drama. You also have those old high school and college friends you feel obligated to invite, even though you only keep in touch via a few Instagram likes and comments which are filled with meaningless emojis expressing only a fraction of the complex human emotional spectrum. And don’t forget your second Aunt’s third husband’s children whom you’ve never met but have heard about incessantly in their annual horrible Holiday letter. Must you always invite these social dregs?!?!?!?!

When you choose to get married, I hope this is not the case. Your wedding should be an intimate and special day that you choose to share with those you love and intend on keeping in your life. Your wedding is not just a romantic and ritualistic union between you and your partner, it is also a union of your communities. The community you choose to celebrate with is an important one, because who else would you like to share such a personal moments with? You wanna look back at the wedding photos, and actually know the people in them! BOOM SHAKKA LAKKA!

 
Caption: Source: www.dictionary.com

Caption: Source: www.dictionary.com

 

What I love about bringing people together through artful celebration is the capacity to heal old wounds, build stronger communities, and respond to the problems of the world by honoring people and their resilience in the face of adversity. The power of unity is in your Creative Union, when celebrating the loving commitment between you and your partner also becomes a form of resistance during today’s political climate which strives to tear us apart.

A marriage celebration is a union of two partners and the community. These kinds of values are key to my business, and why I prefer the term union over wedding. The term wedding can carry a racist, ableist, and heteronormative undertone. On the other hand, unions are inclusive of all gender orientations, cultural traditions, and religions.

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

Despite all the unjust things happening in the world right now, commUNITY is essential to everything, from political grassroots organizing, to creating healthy ecosystems for our basic needs, to creating what you define as a happy home. Love makes it that much easier to accomplish all of the above. It requires a love of self, the kind of self love that overflows so that you can share it with someone else, and your community. That is the kind of self love that comes from knowing that your story matters. It’s the kind of love we need to create ripple effects in our society. We need each other now more than ever.  

-Michelle Ivette Gomez

Founder and Creative Director of Creative Unions Event Design LLC


 

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.