Highlights from the interview with Kate Thomas

Portrait of Bob Levine and Kate Thomas

On the Gallery and Activism

KT: So, for instance, the gallery—as much as we would hold that open for gallery space, for art shows and things of that nature—it also was a huge place for gathering people. The stuff that has gone on in that gallery is just amazing over the years. I mean, all kinds of political organizations have met there, had meetings there, gatherings. I remember that we had Bernardine Dohrn from the sixties come one time and speak to us.

There were just all kinds of things going on around here that revolved around it. So there always was a combination of activism [and art] here. So it’s the bent of the people in the neighborhood and us, in particular, but also the direction of the gallery for a long time. I think it’s kind of a nice marriage, probably not an unusual one.

Artists have been involved in political activism for [a long time]. Nonetheless, I always thought that was a good part of it. And, for me, I was probably more interested in that direction, to a certain extent, than the arts. I like looking art, you know, I like art. I have nothing against art. [Laughs] I don’t do it, you know, I probably have less enthusiasm for that.

My activism over time became—we sort of all went in different directions—but mine became, over time, sexuality. I took on the mission many years ago to create a more sex-positive world. At least the world that I have any influence over, it in various ways of teaching and clinical work and speaking, just all kinds of stuff, joining organizations and so forth. So I used the gallery a lot for those kinds of activities. And all of us had different areas that we were interested in promoting.

Bob did a lot of his work up there in the gallery, in our building, you know, in terms of promoting physical, emotional and spiritual health, through Eastern wisdom and Tai Chi and so forth. We did Tai Chi classes here for years and did workshops for people up in the gallery for many years, on and on and on. Dennis was involved in a zillion organizations, I can’t even tell you how many. I have a book that lists all of that. [Laughs] But Carol could tell you. So that’s been a nice marriage.

When Dennis died, we did a memorial service up in the gallery. And Dennis had directed it, from before he died, but also probably a little bit from the grave, making sure that we all did it just right, just the way that he wanted it to be. One of the things that he wanted people to do—it was a huge gathering, it was a couple hundred people, all smashed into the galley—he wanted everybody to talk about their work in the world. Basically, their activism. And that was really interesting, the way that people see what their role is. You have a passion; you know what I’m talking about.

AF: Sure.

KT: The archival pieces. It’s nice to have people directed in all kinds of ways.

AF: And the fact your community here, people support each other whatever the overlapping passions that you have?

KT: I think so. Yeah. I think it is. I think it is in really in a sense taking that all seriously, that we all have this important work to do in the world. And although it doesn’t all intersect in a sense, it all forms part of this larger picture. Certainly the work that I do is not what other people see as activism, but it is. It’s a corner of it. Or whatever anybody else does. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of support for it, definitely. And we’ve all been sad to see the gallery go, because that formed the space to make it all happen.

AF: Yeah.

KT: But it just became reality and we had to let go of it. So that’s been a big change.

Audio clip from oral history interview with Kate Thomas