Ray Johnson

Ray Johnson pic

October 16, 1927 – January 13, 1995

Detroit native Raymond Edward “Ray” Johnson graduated from Cass Tech High School and took art classes at the Ox-Bow School in Saugatuck.  He later studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina before moving to New York City in the late 1940s.  Johnson became an acclaimed collagist and performance artist.  He relocated to Long Island at age 41 and ended his life at age 67.

New York Times, January 19, 1995

How to Draw a Bunny

Frederick Weston

December 9, 1946 – October 21, 2020

Born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised by his mother in Detroit, Frederick Weston attended the High School of Commerce and went on to earn his Bachelor’s from Ferris State.  In his 20s, he moved to New York, where he worked low-paying jobs while relishing the gay scene and creating an array of visual arts.  A long-term survivor of AIDS, Weston gained recognition for his artistic genius only late in life.

POZ, October 29, 2020

New York Times, November 18, 2020

Peggy Sauer

Peggy Sauer pic

March 2, 1925 – March 21, 1986

A 1944 graduate of Southeastern High School in Detroit, potter and sculptor Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” Sauer earned her BFA at Cranbrook Academy and her Masters at Wayne State.  As one of the pioneering “Damsels of Design,” she worked as a designer of automobile interiors for General Motors from 1955 to 1962.  Sauer later taught and shared a home in Harper Woods with her partner Julie Sabit.

Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1986

How Margaret “Peg” Sauer Inspired the World

Virlena Reed

Virlena Reed pic

November 8, 1971 – November 27, 2016

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Virlena Cerese Reed of Ann Arbor, previously of Ypsilanti, graduated from Belleville High School and attended Washtenaw Community College.  She earned her Bachelor’s at Eastern Michigan University in 2000 and worked as a case manager as well as an artist.  Reed was survived by her son Christopher Fitzner-Reed and her co-parenting partner Melinda Fitzner.

Ann Arbor News, November 30, 2016

Dale Cramton

Dale Cramton obit

November 15, 1953 – October 24, 1991

Dale Allen Cramton grew up in Jackson and graduated from Parkside High School.  As a first-year college student, he was founder of the Gay Liberation Front at Central Michigan University in September 1971.  Cramton later moved to Los Angeles where he made a life for himself as an artist.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 37.

Jackson Citizen-Patriot, October 26, 1991

Brent Dorian Carpenter

Brent Dorian Carpenter pic

April 19, 1964 – March 23, 2020

Writer and artists Brent Dorian Carpenter was born in Detroit and graduated from Cass Tech in 1981.  His entrée into Detroit’s African American LGBTQ community came in 2001 when he approached Hotter Than July planners to promote his first novel, Man of the Cloth.  Carpenter became and AIDS activist and he worked as a reporter and regular columnist for Between The Lines before moving to Atlanta in 2006.

Between The Lines, April 16, 2020

Jere Van Syoc

Jere Van Syoc pic

April 22, 1935 – January 6, 2018

Painter, sculptor, and pioneering filmmaker Jere Van Syoc graduated from Lincoln High in Ferndale.  She went on to earn her B.A. and M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later taught at Western Michigan University and Nazareth College.  In 1977, Van Syoc co-founded Aradia in Grand Rapids, where her home was known as “a palace for the goddess.”  She died at age 82 in West Virginia.

High Lawn Funeral Home

Jere Van Syoc Collection at The Woman Behind the Camera

Alice Anderson

Alice Anderson pic

September 4, 1993 – June 11, 2019

Grand Rapids resident Alice Joy Anderson was born in Holland.  Anderson’s creativity drew her to mythology, literature, music, architecture, history, and photography, and a passion for LEGO building blocks.  Her studies took her to India and Iceland.  At age 16, Anderson entered Hope College, where she worked as a set carpenter in the Theater Department and earned her B.A. in studio art in 2016.

Holland Sentinel, June 21, 2019

Mitch Thomas

November 17, 1956 – February 21, 1995

Mitch Thomas, also known as Thomas Robert White, was born in Flint, graduated in the Carman High School class of 1974, and served in the U.S. Air Force.  White was employed for many years by Abbott’s Meats but was better known as a painter, sculptor, and regular performer at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 38.

Flint Journal, February 23, 1995

David Blair

David Blair pic 2

September 19, 1967 – July 23, 2011

David Blair, better known as Blair, was born in Newton, New Jersey and moved to Detroit in the 1990s.  He achieved national recognition as an openly queer socialist poet, artist, singer-song writer, and activist.  Blair also taught poetry to Detroit Public School students and at the Ruth Ellis Center.  Among his many achievements were a National Poetry Slam title and the BENT Writing Institute Mentor Award.

Between The Lines, July 28, 2011

Metro Times, August 3, 2011