Last year, we started a Pride Month tradition that we hope to continue for many years to come: commissioning LGBTQ Nebraskan artists to create art that we give away at Pride events. We're thrilled to share our 2022 design from this year's selected artist, Michael Elizabeth Johnson.
We asked Michael to approach the design with the prompt of "Reflecting." This month, we're inviting LGBTQ Nebraskans to reflect with joy on their authentic selves and reflect on hard-earned progress. And we're encouraging all Nebraskans to reflect a sense of community and belonging.
Michael's design perfectly captures our state's natural beauty in a way that conveys joy, progress and community all at once. We can't wait to share this art with Nebraskans across the state.
Michael's Artist Statement
I was really excited when the ACLU of Nebraska reached out to me to create art for this summer’s pride event. As a queer Nebraskan, it’s not hard to feel unwelcome in this state, but it’s also the place where I found the courage and community support to discover who I am, transition, and live my best life as an artist.
All the while, I’ve fallen in love with the geography of the Midwest. Imagine the biggest sky you’ve ever seen — bigger than oceans, mountains, or forests — pressing down against a rippling field of grass, stretching towards infinity. The landscape of the Midwest is much more beautiful, diverse, and mysterious than it’s given credit for.
With this in mind, along with the ACLU’s theme of “Reflecting,” I illustrated the annual Sandhill Crane migration, when over 60,0000 cranes migrate over the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska. It features Nebraska’s state fish (channel catfish), flower (goldenrod), and insect (honeybee). Beneath the earth are ground squirrels, an iconic barrel-bodied rhino skeleton from the Ashfalls Fossil Bed, and a few nautilus and trilobite fossils, reminiscent of when this land was under water. In the sky, a typical Nebraska sunrise blazes, filled with migrating cranes, and reflected by the river below.
Nebraska’s nature makes me feel at home and gives me a strong sense of identity in a state whose political leadership is less than welcoming to queers and minority groups. I hope my illustration inspires pride in ourselves, reflection on our victories, and stewardship of the land that supports us all!