SANTA MONICA, Calif. — In partnership with the nonprofit Allies in Arts, which supports LGBTQ artists, Santa Monica is celebrating SaMo PRIDE with the Rainbow Road Walk.
It features the creations of LGBTQIA+ visual artists along the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place and the Santa Monica Pier for the month of June.
One artist Annie Hong, also known as "Hootnannie," still can't believe their art is displayed on such a large scale.
"I am pretty speechless that I am looking at this huge installation of my work at a place that I would come to as a kid all the time. It's really surreal, actually," Hong said, who uses the pronouns they and them.
A surreal moment for this artist who never thought this would be a career path. Hong was born in Korea but spent their life in Los Angeles. They had to balance following their mom's wishes while following their dreams.
"Art was a big outlet for a lot of the tumultuous aspects of my youth. It goes with growing up Asian American, growing up queer and not knowing it," Hong said.
It all fell into place when Hong, in their late 20s, finally found confidence in being queer and non-gender conforming, as well as being an artist full time.
"The journey of actually becoming proud of who I was, was definitely a journey. It wasn't a one-time thing. It was intermixed with my truth coming back into art," Hong said.
Hong feels their bold, colorful, in-your-face art is a direct expression of becoming confident and proud. It is why they are so honored to have their work displayed at Santa Monica Place as part of the month-long Pride installation put on by Downtown Santa Monica Inc.
"I really amped up the colorfulness and boldness of my work because I think that lightness and joy is something that everybody needs," Hong said.
The piece called "Where Will You Take You" has the words "where will you take you if you let you be you?" hidden in the graphic design that was sketched then made into a decal that was professionally installed. They said, "I am inspired by words themselves, the actual aesthetics of words."
Hong hopes people will stop, reflect, and think of all the possibilities that await if one becomes one's true, authentic self.
"That to me is the ultimate pride message I can bring: who would you be if you allowed yourself to be free? Who would you be if you could take yourself anywhere? That is my message back to the community," Hong said.
The installation in Santa Monica will be in place until June 30.