As an African American, gay, paraplegic artist and activist Mr. Kinnard has committed himself to enlightening others about the challenges of experiencing racism, homophobia, class-ism, sexism, ageism and experiencing what he calls being “less-abled.” He has been able to share his insights through his art as an award-winning graphic designer for numerous progressive organizations, as a “sub-underground” political cartoonist and as a lecturer.
Born in Chicago in 1954, Mr. Kinnard moved to Portland upon graduating from Cornell College in 1979. He soon began work as an associate art director for Willamette Week in 1980. In 1983 he was one of the founders of Just Out, Oregon’s oldest LGTBQ publication. As the paper’s first art director he helped the publication win the 1983 National Gay Press Association award for best overall design. During that period he became the first African American to serve on the board of directors for Portland Town Council, Oregon’s first LGTBQ rights organization. Under the umbrella of that group, he joined with others to form The Diversity Alliance, a group dedicated to celebrating the colorful cultures that exists within the LGTBQ community.
As a freelance graphic designer for The Rupe Group Graphics, Mr. Kinnard became dedicated to working with some of Portland’s most progressive organizations of the day: The Black United Front, Portland Storefront Theater, PassinArt, the National Organization for Women, National Lawyers Guild, Cascade AIDS Project, the Workers’ Organizing Committee, Oregonians Against the Death Penalty and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
As Art Director of the San Francisco Sentinel Mr. Kinnard was once again honored by receiving the National Gay Press Association award for best overall design in 1987. He also achieved some notoriety as the creator of the political comic strip Cathartic Comics and the book B.B. and the Diva was published in 1992 by Alyson Publications. That same year original panels of the strip were entered into the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum as a part of their permanent collection. The strip was published in Portland, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1994 The characters Brown Bomber and the Diva Touché Flambé were also portrayed on stage of part of Out of the Inkwell, a Theater Rhinoceros production in San Francisco which also included characters from the comic strip Doonesbury. The next year the strip was spotlighted in the book Out in All Directions: The Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America as featuring “the oldest continuing African American gay and lesbian characters” in the country. 1997 Mr. Kinnard (aka Prof. I.B. Gittendowne) was invited to take part in the nation’s first Lesbian and Gay Cartoonist conference, A Tip of the Nib, at Oberlin College.
In 1993 Mr. Kinnard was one of 7 men who formed the Portland chapter of Brother to Brother, an African American gay and bisexual men’s political and social organization. He counts the group’s accomplishments as among some of his proudest achievements. In 1996, while working as art director for both the Skanner and Just Out, the Skanner won an award for best graphic and typographical excellence by the West Coast Black Journalist Association.
Mr. Kinnard experienced a life changing event that same year when the day after attending his grandmother’s funeral in Mississippi, he was involved in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He became so totally overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received during that difficult period that he never experienced the depression that could have come as a result of losing the use of his legs. That year he received the Pride Northwest’s Spirit of Pride Award. In 2005 Mr. Kinnard and his partner Scott Stapley served as plaintiffs in Martinez vs. Oregon in Basic Rights Oregon’s challenge against Ballot Measure 36, which amended the Oregon Constitution to prohibit same sex marriage.
Since then the Rupe Group Graphics has been awarded the 2007 Cascade AIDS Project’s Community Angel Award and Mr. Kinnard’s original cartoon art was included as a part of a fund-raiser for McKenzie River Gathering called Justice Within Reach in 2008. On January 21, 2013 Mr. Kinnard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Arts Foundation, which read: “Your artistic talent and leadership to reach out to the LGBTQ community honors the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” For the last 15 years Mr. Kinnard has been working on a book called The LifeCapsule Project. He considers it to be a graphic memoir that is also a time capsule, oral history, photo album, scrapbook and an over view of his life. Within the last few years he has been called upon to lecture on the LifeCapsule Project at Portland State University and for the Disability Art and Culture Project. The basis of his presentation is that “To bring about social change we must share our stories.”
Q Center and the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN) have partnered on an annual multi-media celebration of LGBTQ pioneers and leaders from our local movement called Queer Heroes NW!
The project features a new queer hero (nominated by the greater LGBTQ community) every day online during Pride month (June). The 30 queer heroes are also featured on the walls of the Aaron Hall Gallery at Q Center for the months of June and July, as well as in Q Center’s Pride booths all over the region.
After Pride is over each year the portable display hits the road and makes the rounds all over community centers, schools, churches, and businesses in the Pacific NW! Help us honor our queer heroes by spreading the word.
Please join Q Center and GLAPN as we hold a reception at Q Center Thursday, June 13th, 5pm-8pm as part of the 2nd Thursday Mississippi Ave. Art Walk, to unveil the posters for all 30 of this year’s Queer Heroes! RSVP HERE.