Over the last several decades, Memorial Day has become synonymous with Black Pride in Washington, D.C. This year, STABLE Arts welcomed the holiday with the opening of Sadie Barnette’s traveling exhibition, New Eagle Creek Saloon (New Eagle). The commemorative installation is named for the first multi-racial queer bar in San Francisco, operated by Barnette’s father, Rodney from 1990 to 1993.
It emerged as a response to racial profiling practiced at other venues, and as Sadie described, was a place for people to be “fly, fabulous, and comfortable together.” A hub for social activity and civic engagement, patrons were instrumental in passing an ordinance that prohibited San Francisco bars and restaurants from requiring three forms of ID from people of color. New Eagle was the only bar to offer an interactive video game experience to educate customers about safe sex, HIV and AIDS and where DJ Black (@blackismusic) played the first set of their thirty year career.
The installation is a reimagining of the saloon’s ethos translated through Sadie’s imagination. Inside the gallery, a U shaped bar is adorned with alternating hot pink and sparkly iridescent surfaces. Archival images of people the Barnettes refer to as “members of the bar” are embedded along the counter top, while cutouts spanning the base serve as pedestals for reproductions of record and tape players from the early 90’s.
Requiring roughly 150 square feet of space and 8 feet of overhead, the back of the bar boasts an arch with a neon pink sign that reads “Eagle Creek” in a retro script. On either side, shelves house pothos plants, photographs, books and other bits of ephemera. Directly behind, three framed fragments of mirror from the original bar hang on the wall, holding memories of the past as they reflect new faces back into the structure. Open for service, stools and glittery booths invite you to sit, stay, and enjoy the scene.