Meet the PrideArts Pathfinders

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month!

PrideArts’ PATHFINDERS PROJECT video series explores the stories and contributions of LGBTQ+ leaders.

Upper row left-right: Gloria Allen, Donald Bell, Jamie Black, Tom Chiola
Middle row left-right: Stefanie Clark, Bob Cohn, Pat Cummings, Kim Hunt
Lower row left-right: Eva Skye, Rob Stein, Hector Suarez

Eleven Chicago LGBT seniors to be profiled in four-part streaming series, launching October 14

CHICAGO – PrideArts has produced a streaming series of video interviews with older queer Chicagoans that explores their personal stories in both a historical and a contemporary context. The series, called THE PATHFINDERS PROJECT, will launch on Thursday, October 14, with a new segment released each subsequent Thursday until November 4, 2021. The videos will be available through the PrideArts website (www.pridearts.org)  and there is no charge to view.

A goal of The Pathfinders Project is to make the history of the queer communities come alive in a way that will appeal to all, including younger members who might be labeled as being not interested in their history. Magdiel Carmona, one of the millennial filmmakers who conducted and filmed the interviews along with his collaborators Mattie Switzer and Dayton Nelson, said “As we collected more and more stories, the theme of identity began to form and I found myself tackling my own identity from it. Each story told about the paths that it took our subjects to arrive at an identity and gave me a deeper understanding that developing a sense of identity is a lifelong process. That has allowed me to more patient with myself on my own journey. We continue to forge our identities and pave our paths, but every now and then we find the time to sit and listen to those who came before. We keep going but hopefully we continue a little closer to the people we once called strangers.”

Some of the seniors profiled made history for LGBTQIA+ people. Some are still making it – working for positive changes for the community. Some are well known; others are notable for their successes in living active and happy lives – even if it has meant making major life choices after age 70. Among the 11 seniors viewers will meet is Pat Cummings, a 68-year-old cis-woman and ex-Marine, who as an activist from Alabama participated in the first March on Washington for LGBT Rights in 1979. Bob Cohn, a 75-year-old construction company President, tells a harrowing story of testing for the AIDS virus in the early days of the pandemic. Tom Chiola in 1994 was the first openly gay person elected to any office in Illinois. And charm school founder Gloria Allen had a successful play written about her. Others, whose lives have not been in the spotlight, have equally amazing stories. Trans woman Eva Skye was one of the first residents of the LGBT-friendly Town Hall Apartments for seniors – a move that changed her life at age 62, Stefanie Clark transitioned to female at age 72 and is now living an active life as a “twin-spirited Renaissance Woman.”

PATHFINDERS PROJECT – Release Schedule

Thursday, October 14 

  • Stefanie Clark, 78-year-old trans-female Lesbian who transitioned at age 73
  • Kim Hunt, Executive Director of the Pride Action Tank, a project of the AIDS Foundation Chicago.

Thursday, October 21

  • Bob Cohn, 75-year-old cis-male construction company president who speaks of his encounters with the National Institute of Health in the early years of the AIDS pandemic, 
  • Pat Cummings, 68-year-old cis-female, retired photographer and ex-Marine who speaks of her time as an LGBT activist in 1970’s Alabama
  • Hector Suarez, husband, traveler and sports enthusiast

Thursday, October 28

  • Eva Skye, 69-year-old trans-female who was one of the first residents of the Center on Halsted’s Town Hall Apartments, who tells how that move into affordable and safe housing seven years ago was life-changing for her
  • Jamie Black, 54-year-old trans-male and actor whose one-man show details his journey and helps light the way for others
  • Rob Stein, cook, swimmer, former model

Thursday, November 4

  • Gloria Allen, 75-year-old trans-female whose charm school for teens at the Center on Halsted gave LGBTQ teens new confidence and became the subject of the play CHARM.
  • Tom Chiola, 69-year-old cis-male and retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge who in 1994 became the first openly gay candidate elected to any federal, state, county or municipal office in Illinois.
  • Donald Bell, 72-year-old cis-male retired educator retired educator, currently an activist and speaker across the range of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues

The PrideArts Pathfinders creative team is Magdiel Carmona, Mattie Switzer, and Dayton Nelson.

For more information and to donate, visit www.pridearts.org.

PrideArts thanks The Saints for their support of this project with the underwriting of lighting and film equipment.