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In Washington, D.C., artist Sadie Barnette transforms her father's former gay bar into an immersive installation

This past weekend – just in time for Pride – Washington DC’s Stable Arts welcomed artist Sadie Barnette’s migration showcase The New Eagle Creek Saloon (2019) into its gallery space. The Salon is actually a life-size bar honoring the historic San Francisco establishment founded by Barnette’s father Rodney in 39. For three years, the original Eagle Creek Saloon has been the first haven of its kind for the BIPOC queer community near the Mission District; at other bars in the area, it’s not uncommon for blacks to “be asked to show three pieces of identification,” Barnette said. “It’s not that [my father] had this idea, like, I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to open a bar. Really, it’s because of him and his My friend’s experience in San Francisco, going to these predominantly white bars and getting racist.” Eagle Creek Saloon feels like a “necessity”; its cheerful tagline is “a friendly place with funky bass for every race

In her creative practice, Barnette often examines black lives through the lens of her own family; FBI Project, In 1990 she begins dissecting the FBI opened file about her father who founded 1990 Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party. With The New Eagle Creek Saloon, the 39 year-old Oakland native relives his time at To recapture the power of joyful, intentional spaces for non-white queer people. Previous iterations of the installation have been featured at The Lab in San Francisco; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Kitchen in New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

At the Stables, The New Eagle Creek Saloon consists of a U-shaped bar and a neon sign with Practical stools and vintage photos; on opening night, a bartender was present to serve drinks. Barnette sees this work as a call to engage and convene. “The project was always designed to activate,” she said. “It was meant to be a stage, a platform, an invitation to make things happen.”

Photo: Mike Harrison

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