Art Johnston and Pepe Peña are civil rights leaders whose life and love is a force behind LGBTQ+ equality in the heart of the country. Their iconic gay bar, Sidetrack, has helped fuel movements and create community for decades in Chicago’s queer enclave. But, behind the business and their historic activism exists a love unlike any other. The documentary film ART AND PEP tells the inspiring story of the long struggle for equality and their fight to love freely.
America’s popular telling of queer progress largely comes from the coasts – Stonewall, the Cooper Do-Nuts Riot and Harvey Milk’s legacy. ART AND PEP is a story of equality born in the heartland. The first state to decriminalize homosexuality, Illinois was on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, anti-discrimination laws and marriage equality. But long before government officials would utter the words “HIV,” it was gay bars that transformed into community centers and became ground zero in the fight. While Art and Pep never set out to be activists, for them inaction was never an option.
The battles they faced. The camaraderie they formed. The generation they galvanized. And the clout they created. Their story is at the heart of LGBTQ+ history.
Art & Pepe will be joining us for a Q&A after the film.