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‘All The Nights We Got to Dance’ is a Tribute to Queer Nightlife in SF

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Artist and curator Marcel Pardo Ariza poses for a photo at the archives of San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society.
Artist and curator Marcel Pardo Ariza poses for a photo at the archvies of San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Human memory can be triggered by certain smells, sounds or even a photo. It’s funny how the mind works; one small symbol can lead to the rehashing of feelings from years ago.

The latest work from artist Marcel Pardo Ariza urges people to take a trip down memory lane by using images of gone-but-not-forgotten bar signs. Pardo Ariza is clear: these bars served more than booze. They were sanctuaries for folks from San Francisco’s queer and trans community, and should be celebrated as such.

Marcel Pardo Ariza wears a blue button-up shirt while standing in front of their latest work behind a windowfront, "All The Nights We Got To Dance."
Artist Marcel Pardo Ariza and their latest installation, ‘All The Nights We Got To Dance.’ (Pendarvis Harshaw)
On a yellow background, are illustrations of historic Queer and Trans bar signs including Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, Esta Noche, Amelia’s, The Pendulum and more.
A mockup of the site specific installation ‘All The Nights We Got to Dance.’ (courtesy of Marcel Pardo Ariza)

All The Nights We Got To Dance is a site-specific installation in the ground-floor window of The Line Hotel in San Francisco’s Transgender Cultural District. A sunset orange backdrop is covered in hand-painted wooden replicas of bar signs, such as The Lexington, Esta Noche and Finocchio’s — a club credited as one of the earliest incubators of drag shows in the U.S.

Born in Colombia and based in Oakland, Pardo Ariza worked closely with San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society for their latest project, leveraging the center’s rich archives to inform their work.

This week on Rightnowish, we catch up with Pardo Ariza to take a look at their latest installation before heading over to the GLBT Historical Society’s archives. There, we meet up with Issac Fellman, the center’s managing reference archivist, who brings us files full of actual handbills, photos, flyers and ephemera from all the nights people danced.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


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