Legacy Wall exhibit at IMU garners praise on IU Bloomington campus

"Absolutely beautiful. May our voices never be silenced."

"What a great surprise to see! I love the visibility!"

"Thank you! Glad to see something positive in these hard days!"

"Thanks to everyone who made this happen! This made my day better!"

And from Indiana University trustee Phil Eskew, "Terrific history lessons."

These words of admiration were just a small sample of the feedback visitors submitted in the comment box next to the Legacy Wall exhibit in the Indiana Memorial Union’s East Lounge.

The Legacy Wall is a traveling, interactive exhibit designed to raise awareness of the multiple contributions LGBTQ people have made to shared human history, to provide historically significant role models for LGBTQ youth, and to lessen the incidence of bullying in schools and communities by encouraging a culture of mutual respect. It is part of the Chicago-based nonprofit Legacy Project, which also created the Legacy Walk, a permanent, “outdoor museum” of LGBTQ+ history.

While the Legacy Wall has traveled throughout Illinois, its appearance at IU was the first time the Legacy Wall has been in another state. The exhibit, which includes influential LGBTQ+ figures throughout history—including legendary Hoosier composer Cole Porter and IU’s own Dr. Alfred Kinsey—was on display at IU from January 23 through February 3.

“Right now, we need some historical perspective, as I think of younger people who just voted for the first time. I think this gives you an appreciation of history and diversity. At a time where there’s a lot of negative energy out there, this is ‘positive graffiti,’” said Doug Bauder, director of IU’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center, a program administered by IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA). “I hope people felt connections, saw themselves, and said, ‘That could be me,’ or, ‘That’s my story,’ and walk away feeling better about themselves. There are any number of reactions people can have to something like this, but I sort of see it as a gift to the community.

“I know there are still young people out there who are closeted about who they are. It’s an effort for them to come into LGBTQ+ Culture Center. Well, they didn’t have to do anything but walk by this exhibit. It’s a display that’s affirmed by the university and the IMU by virtue of it being there, and it’s hopefully pulled them in and maybe gave them a little bit more confidence to be honest and proud about who they are,” he added. “So, if it moved a few people to come into the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and talk about themselves more honestly, that’s another reaction I hope for. People may have found someone on there who they admire or heard about, and that will draw them in. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for passive education because it wasn’t forced on anyone.”

The response to it has been so positive, and we’re looking forward to it potentially appearing at other places in Indiana, possibly other campuses of IU.

Michael Bedwell

“When Victor told me about the creation of a traveling exhibit version of the Legacy Walk, I immediately imagined it being installed at IU. The response to it has been so positive, and we’re looking forward to it potentially appearing at other places in Indiana, possibly other campuses of IU,” said Bedwell, an Indiana native and longtime Bloomington resident. “I was frankly very moved. Standing in the middle of the East Lounge that night, in the Union building where I spent so much time over the years, and knowing that countless students, faculty members, and staff members who pass in and out of the East Lounge every day are having stories of LGBT people brought to them they didn’t know before, I’m very gratified and extremely grateful to all of the entities of the university who made it possible.”

At the reception, Tislam Swift, a second-year master’s student at the Jacobs School of Music, performed a Cole Porter song, in tribute to the late Indiana-born composer.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to expose people to contributions made to history by members of the LGBTQ community, so being there made me proud to see students who wanted to be more informed, and also to see people who identify as LGBTQ who are older than us, and have seen growth and progress in the community, and seeing people being more educated, accepted, and loving of people in that community,” said Swift, who is also a program and operations assistant for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, an OVPDEMA program. “I think that it’s something that’s necessary as we continue to make progress. As you’re aware of what’s going on in our country at the current moment, I think it’s important that people are exposed to contributions that Americans of the LGBTQ community have made to history, life, and beyond.”

For more information about the Legacy Wall, please visit the Legacy Project’s website.