A photograph of a large brick and stone building that is set against a blue sky and a field of green grass stretched before it. Hung from the middle of the building is a rectangular rainbow flag, composed of six stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. People congregate in small groups on the grass.

The LGBTQIA+ Pride flag, installed at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in the Arthur Ross Terrace & Garden. Installation produced by Molly Engelman. Photo by Hannah Holden.

The LGBTQIA+ Pride flag, often referred to as the rainbow flag, symbolizes the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. The design was originally conceived in 1978 by artist and activist Gilbert Baker (American, 1951–2017) and fabricated with Baker’s friends and fellow artists at the Gay Community Center in San Francisco, California. Directly inspired by nature, the use of the spectrum of a rainbow—stylized in many versions of the flag into six colored stripes—is intended to embody the entirety of the community it represents. As a symbol of the liberation movement, Baker noted, “We needed something that worked beyond words.”[1] Due to its simplicity and recognizability, it has been widely reproduced as an international symbol of LGBTQIA+ Pride.

The unfurling of the rainbow flag at Cooper Hewitt during the month of June commemorates Pride Month, celebrated each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, New York. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the United States, and 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of that uprising.

Additional events and exhibitions will take place throughout the month to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride across Smithsonian museums in New York and Washington, DC. Learn more about Smithsonian Pride Alliance (SPA) and Smithsonian’s LGBTQIA+ programs, exhibitions, and initiatives in New York City and Washington, DC throughout June (printable PDF).

[1] As quoted in “How the Pride Flag Came to Be,” NBC News, video, 5:17, June 23, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_bzpr2jalQ.

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