Gene Elder (Photos: QSanAntonio)
UTSA to add Gene Elder's journals
to LGBT archives
QSanAntonio, August 1, 2014
The University of Texas at San Antonio will soon add the journals of artist
and activist Gene Elder to its UTSA Libraries Special Collections which
has a section dedicated to local gay history.
"The UTSA Libraries Special Collections has LGBTQ materials as one
of the repository's top collecting priorities. Gene Elder's journals will
be a wonderful addition to our growing LGBTQ collections. Gene captures
unique facets of San Antonio's history through his journals that provide
insight into the evolution of the city's queer community as well as that
of its art scene," says Melissa Gohlke of UTSA Special Collections.
Elder's journals date back to 1973 when he was manager and part owner
with Arthur "Hap" Veltman of the San Antonio Country, a popular
gay disco at the time. In 1984, Elder was crowned Cornyation's King Anchovy
presiding over the Court of Wretched Excess.
"The journals are really as much about the art community and gay
concerns in San Antonio as about my thoughts on these matters. My writings
are interspersed with collages of art notices and pictures," says
Today, Elder is the archivist for the Happy Foundation which is headquartered
in a large room at the back of the Bonham Exchange. (See related story
“The goal is to save the history of the community and create a resource
facility so that people doing research can find information on who and
what we were, and what we did to change the world,” Elder told QSanAntonio.
"I am glad to have lived in San Antonio during this time and I can't
believe that I was able to keep these journals and not lose them over
the years. I feel like I had a front row seat in the eye of the hurricane,
and I enjoyed every minute of it."
Following are vignettes from Elder's journals that he shared with QSanAntonio.
Art events and gay civil rights were so interwoven in my life. I have
had a great time looking back over all this. The journals pretty much
start with the documentation of Fairies Fiasco, the camp ballet that I
wrote as a protest to all the military harassment we endured being a gay
disco in 1973. We performed it for three nights in March 1974. It is about
the 12 seasonal fairies that reside along the San Antonio River and their
queen and her daughter.
Elder for Mayor
In 1979 I ran for Mayor of San Antonio on the Party Party Ticket. This
was the bright idea of Anne Alexander, Margie Shackelford and Alex Caragonne
and a needed protest about the lack of art funding from the city, that
didn't see the need to promote or support the arts. Anne's Charlton Gallery
served as headquarters for fundraisers. Needless to say The Express News
and The Light had great fun with our campaign and we got full support
on the political page and in the art section. The fact that I was a known
and open homo was hardly mentioned at all.
AIDS comes to San Antonio
With the 80s came the AIDies. The art world came out full force nationally
during that decade as the problem grew into a tsunami of fresh hatred
for the gay community. New York was giving the world Angels in America
and ACT-UP. But what was San Antonio doing?
In 1984 I curated the Time Capsule for the San Antonio Museum of Art to
be opened in 2181. Gilbert Denman requested that date since he became
my mentor for the project, the bicentennial of SAMA his reason.
The Time Capsule contains art works from 100 living artists, like Kathy
Vargas, Marilyn Lanfear, Adan Hernandez Larry Graeber, Bill Bristow Anne
Curtis, Bettie Ward and poems from10 poets, such as Berkeley Smith, and
numerous pamphlets, invitations and books to document the community at
that period in SA's art history. Margaret Stanley provided a terrific
photograph of her presenting Martha Graham with a San Antonio Society
for the Performing Arts Award. The art community in 2181 will have a great
time with this buried treasure box. I am so glad I did that. I can't believe
I did do it!
Art and the Blue Star
Blue Star would begin in 1986 and Arthur Veltman requested that I be the
property manger. So there was a lot to collect during those years too.
Davis Sprinkle, David Freeman John Dyer, the blue collar gallery with
Holly Moe and Gary Schafter were artists I met then. Jeffrey Moore the
Blue Star director headed up a great new era of art awareness for SA.
Blue Star was a really great experience at the beginning.
Also, during that time, I curated two exhibits, Artist As Administrator
and Power To The Pulp. Power To The Pulp was inspired after my years of
working and teaching in the papermaking studio at the Southwest School
of Art and Craft. I invited 30 artists who had never worked in paper to
create a new work. The exhibit was at the Locus gallery at the Blue Star.
Some of those artists were Anita Valencia, David Casas, Henry Stein, Mike
Pogue, Suzanne Paquette.
In1989. Glenna Park curated the LOADED exhibit at Blue Star and I painted
on 4 American flags. This was an interesting experience since it was during
the time of national flag burning debates and whether the National Endowment
for the Arts should be giving any money to gay and lesbian artists. You
can imagine what that was like. And what was said. Patriotism was a hot
March on Washington
In October 1987, Hap Veltman, Kenneth Garrett, Wade Strauch and I attended
the Gay March in Washington D.C. And I did get arrested on the steps of
the Supreme Court in a civil disobedience demonstration with many other
queers from around the United States. A quote I love, that was shouted
by all at the police wearing plastic medical gloves as we shook our figures,
"Your gloves don't match your boots!" As we stepped onto the
Supreme Court steps we were arrested and taken to jail.
The death of Hap Veltman
When Arthur "Happy" Veltman died of AIDS on Dec 3, 1988 the
HAPPY Foundation archives was started and collecting GayBLT history in
files became even more efficient than journals. I consider this my really
most important art project.
Happy Foundation’s quest to save a bit of LGBT history
QSanAntonio, May 17, 2006
It’s down a long narrow hallway, far away from the dance floors
and video screens of the Bonham Exchange’s public areas. The room
is filled, floor to ceiling, with file cabinets, old display cases, and
boxes of magazines, newspapers and miscellaneous memorabilia. This is
the home of the Happy Foundation, a fledgling non-profit and San Antonio’s
QSanAntonio, July 20, 2013
This past June 23 would have been Arthur P. (Hap) Veltman, Jr.'s 77th
birthday. Veltman, an openly gay man, was a downtown real-estate developer,
restaurant and nightlife entrepreneur, an arts advocate, and historical
Elder and Political Art Month
San Antonio Current, April 13, 2010
I had brunch on Sunday with Gene Elder, artist, activist, and Director
of the HAPPY Foundation LGBT historical archives. We talked about the
first Political Art Month, this July, which Gene initially conceptualized
when San Antonio's Contemporary Art Month was movedfrom July to March.
Elder Is Persona Non Grata at San Antonio City Hall
The Advocate, July 23, 2012
A gay rights activist has been barred from emailing San Antonio city officials
after he inundated them with everything from development complaints to
suggestions for sensitivity training to movie recommendations. Gene Elder
doesn't own a computer, instead sending missives through his neighbor's
computer or computers at churches or universities.