At Denver PrideFest, a celebration and a bit of art remind the community of where it’s been — and where it’s going

People walk among a sculpture featuring multicolored flags that rise high in the air and flowers.
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People walk around the “E. Pluribus Unum” sculpture during Denver PrideFest on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

People from all over Colorado marked 50 years of Pride in the Mile High City Saturday. But the message from some in attendance was to remember: The last half century for the LGBTQIA+ community in Denver and the country hasn’t always been one of wider celebration or acceptance. 

Colorado artist Lonnie Hanzon wanted to show that the community can come together as one despite events in the past that have attempted to hinder its progress. His latest sculpture “E. Pluribus Unum” aims to showcase just that community.

“It's all of us that make one. And you'll see on the sculpture that on the base it has a lot of protests and a lot of human rights, things that we're still demanding,” said Hanzon, who has been a sculptor for 50 years.

The name “E. Pluribus Unum” is Latin for “out of many, one.” The motto is found on the U.S. national seal and currency.

“Out of the many, out of the diverse, out of all the differences, we are one. So that's what this is all about,” said Hanzon.

A man poses with a sculpture he built featuring multicolored flags that rise high in the air and flowers.
Tony Gorman/CPR News
Sculptor Lonnie Hanzon stands next to Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” within his "E. Pluribus Unum" sculpture during Denver PrideFest on Saturday, June 22, 2024.
A sculpture featuring multicolored flags that rises high in the air and flowers with the words Love is Love is Love.
Tony Gorman/CPR News
The "E. Pluribus Unum" sculpture during Denver PrideFest on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

The 28-foot sculpture has 27 colors representing all angles of the LGTBQIA+ community. It’s displayed in the middle of Civic Center Park in Denver. Hanzon said he literally studied every flag within the community. He said he also wanted to include colors of flags representing races, states, and the nation.

“We came down to those 27 colors and then I tried to arrange them so that there was some adjacency,” Hanzon said. “So you should be able to find yourself in here somewhere. But, I hope then that people see themselves as part of the whole of the one.”

Inside the base of the sculpture are words that read LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE in big multicolored letters. Other messages include  “Trans rights are human rights,” “Drag is not a crime,” and “No human is illegal.” For Hanzon, the messages represent what the community still fights for.It faces the City Hall and the State Capitol with photos of families, advocates, and others who have attended Denver Pridefest for the past 50 years. 

But it’s not the only words on the sculpture. The poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver is displayed in the middle of the sculpture. Hanzon said it was suggested by Rex Fuller, the chief executive officer of The Center on Colfax, an LGBTQIA+ rights group.

“We were trying to think of a quiet moment inside of the sculpture. It's shaped like a gigantic eyeball. We're at the pupil of the eye and he suggested this poem,” Hanzon said. “We decided to post it here because we felt as though it was something that almost everybody can relate to.”

Cheyanne Foeppel and Carlyle McCormack drove up from Colorado Springs for their first Denver Pride. The married couple wanted to get more involved with Pride after the Club Q shooting in 2022.

Both said the sculpture reminded them that things are not always bad and there are people who still care. They also thought the sculpture’s location in front of City Hall was very impactful.

“Just it being very clearly right in front of the government and just standing strong right here is just really impactful because then it's showing that it's not hiding,” said Foeppel, who volunteers at Inside Out Youth Services in Colorado Springs. “We are just here, we're in the open and there's just no hiding.”

Two people hold pink, purple and blue umbrellas as they stand underneath a sculpture featuring multicolored flags that rise high in the air and flowers.
Tony Gorman/CPR News
Carlyle McCormack, left, and Cheyanne Foeppel of Colorado Springs stand together within the "E. Pluribus Unum" sculpture during Denver PrideFest Saturday, June 22, 2024.

Angie Straub, her son Nathan, and his friend Siren look forward to Denver PrideFest every year. When they saw the sculpture, Angie said it was very educational for her.

“This is the perfect audience for it because I think everybody here in the pride community is open-minded,” Angie said. “They have to be open-minded for the most part. I want to say it's a way to advance, not your agenda, but to educate people and make them more aware of social issues.”

Siren described the sculpture as brilliant and eye-catching. He came to the U.S. from Israel six years ago. He first lived in Florida before coming to Denver. He said America is more accepting of the community.

“When I came here, I was surprised to see how easy it is to just have fun and be myself. It's just a major change between countries,” Siren said. “I will say that America in general, we always have our struggles. But definitely, there's bigger steps and they're higher-developing in their love for all communities more than other countries.”

“E. Pluribus Unum” will be displayed throughout Denver PrideFest events all weekend. Hanzon hopes his overall statement sends a strong message of unity within the community.

“We want to put a statement forward. That is a strong statement for Colorado is Denver Pride is one of the largest pride celebrations in the United States. And a half a million people will show up between today and tomorrow,” Hanzon said. “That's a long way from 30 guys at Cheesman Park doing a gay-in (in)1974 to protest that the police could still arrest you for holding hands.”