"We Thrive in Middle Spaces"

Art by Tiana Conyers - a smiling Black face with a comic word bubble that reads "We Thrive in Middle Spaces" above a red billboard that reads: 5 billboards in North O. Highlighting LGBTQIA2s+ Omahans of Color"

"In this project, I seek to highlight the intersections of our identities that we exist in, our cultures, our race, our passions, our families, and above all else, our humanity.” - Tiana Conyers

An art billboard project celebrating LGBTQIA2S+ people of color from Omaha.

Portrait of Tiana Conyers, smiling wearing a rainbow striped tank top and heart earrings.

As part of The Union for Contemporary Art’s 2020 Pride celebrations we've partnered with Omaha-based artist Tiana Conyers in the creation of five art billboards, featuring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, 2 Spirit+ (LGBTQIA2S+) people of color from Omaha. The project, titled We Thrive in Middle Spaces, is supported by the Equality Fund through the Omaha Community Foundation.

The project’s title is inspired by a line from Adrián C. Nava's, "An Open Letter to the Boy Who Outed Me." Artist Tiana Conyers explains: Middle spaces refer to the parts of our identities that overlap. My identity as a Black person and my identity as a queer person overlap-- or more specifically, intersect-- and better define my experience.

"We Thrive in Middle Spaces" serves to highlight the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA2S+ Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the Omaha community. Conyers notes “LGBTQIA2S+ people are often defined solely by our queer identities, BIPOC, in particular, are often forced to make the impossible choice of choosing which identity comes first. In this project, I seek to highlight the intersections of our identities that we exist in, our cultures, our race, our passions, our families, and above all else, our humanity.”

As a queer, Black illustrator whose work often features fat bodies and queer identities, The Union identified Conyers as having both an ideal eye for portraiture and an artistic commitment to elevating overlooked identities.

Also contributing to the project is artist Ang Bennett, serving as curatorial intern. Bennet’s role includes assistance in the selection of the various subjects of the billboards. For this particular project, I wanted to feature people who aren’t particularly well-known members of our community whose narratives often go unheard and unknown. To do so, I made a short list of intersecting identities I wanted to feature, and from there, Ang and I were able to find people who fulfilled these experiences.

In addition to providing some long overdue exposure to the achievements of member of Omaha’s Black and brown queer community, “We Thrive in Middle Spaces” is a major step in the young career of a significant Omaha talent. "Seeing my art displayed so boldly; taking up space in a world that actively works to silence voices like mine, will be a special moment," Conyers notes.

In addition to being a Studio Art major at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Tiana Conyers is a freelance illustrator who has worked with multiple local organizations including The Reader Omaha, and has worked with a number of prominent institutions. Conyers was voted “Next Van Gogh” by her Benson High senior class of 2016 and is often mistaken for her twin sister, Tierra.

The five billboards will appear in locations throughout North Omaha beginning in early August 2020.

Billboard Locations
  • North 24th and Grant Street
  • North 30th and Miami Street
  • North 39th Street and Ames Avenue
  • North 30th and Spaulding Street
  • N/W Radial Highway and Charles Street
We Thrive Map
We Thrive in Middles Spaces Billboard of Rustina Roze

We Thrive in Middle Space Billboard of Charlene and Markia Kelly Hill

We Thrive in Middle Spaces Billboard of Big Momma

We Thrive in Middle Spaces Billboard of Mr Little Cat

We Thrive in Middle Spaces Billboard of Seng Naw Marip

Meet the Subjects

Big Momma

Big Momma is the proud Mom of Kai and Tiara and Grandma of Kadeyn and Kaivaunni. Her second profession has been as a teacher for 48 years. Her teaching areas are Indigenous Studies, teacher preparation and life. She has dedicated her life to the process of decolonizing her indigenous environment through teaching, coaching and practice. She, her partner Carol, 1 dog, 13 barn cats and family make their home on the family farm in the old settlement of Maple Landing, Iowa. She is the Grandma-Emeritus of the Maple Landing Ceremonial Grounds.

Download + Print "Big Momma" PDF
Big Mama
Charlene and Markia Kelly-Hill

Charlene and Markia Kelly-Hill are an amazing example of what Black lesbian love looks like. These two Nebraskans call Omaha home and share a passion for family, friends, and their 3-year-old son Roman, who has a love for Legos.

Download + Print "Charlene and Markia" PDF
Markia Charlene
Mr. Little Cat

Mr. Little Cat is a genderqueer performer; their tribes are Havasupai and Diné. Mr. Little Cat is a handmade beadwork jewelry artisan, and a resident Gwen Stefani stan.

Download + Print "Mr. Little Cat" PDF
Mr Little Cat
Rustina Roze

Born in the Peach State and as sweet as can be, Rustina Roze is a gay Black drag Queen, and on top of constantly educating youth in theatre as a teaching artist at The Rose Theater by day, she holds the glamorous titles of Baby Ball 2020 and Drag Idol 2020.

Download + Print "Rustina Roze" PDF
Rustina Rose
Seng Naw Marip

A talented tattoo artist at Eye Candy Tattoo, Seng Naw is a proud gay artist who wears his heart on his sleeve, the flag of his people on his forearm, and his bunny mascot on his business card.

Download + Print "Seng Naw Marip" PDF

Meet the Artists

Lead Artist - Tiana Conyers

Tiana Conyers is a queer, Black illustrator in Omaha Nebraska. Beginning her professional art career at 16-years-old, Conyers has had a prolific career as a young artist where she’s created work for a number of local organizations and is currently the Lead Artist of, "We Thrive in Middle Spaces", a billboard illustration series featuring LGBTQIA2S+ Omahans of color.

As a kid, Conyers grew up playing fighting video games, staying up past her bedtime watching cartoons, and copying drawings from her favorite manga, all of which have had a huge influence on her drawing style which often incorporates exaggerated cartoony expressions and bold color palettes. As an adult, a major theme in Conyers’s work is a focus on depicting fat bodies which in Euro-American societies are often deemed unworthy of respect and rarely make the subject of art. In addition to portraying fat bodies, Conyers’s work often features sex-positive imagery and queer-identified individuals. As a Studio Art major at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Conyers continues to hone her skills and expand her portfolio in new media.

Tiana Social Media:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr: @tianaconyersart

Support Tiana’s Art:

Cashapp: $tianaconyersart

Portrait of Tiana Conyers, smiling wearing a rainbow striped tank top and heart earrings.
Curatorial Intern - Ang Bennett

Ang Bennett is an Omaha based artist, curator, and advocate. They are a member of the Nasty Artist Collective - a community of local artists seeking to use the arts to bring about social change. Ang also serves as the Secretary of the GLSEN Omaha Board of Directors and Visual Arts Co-Chair of the OEAA.

Ang’s art practice focuses on past and present themes of racial inequality, class privilege, and LGBTQ identities. They were a 2020 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award nominee for Best Emerging Artist, as well as a recipient of the Young, Black, and Influential Award for Creativity. Ang’s curatorial experience includes Unapologetic Me: A Celebration of Black, Queer Art, and several NAC group shows.

Ang’s work has appeared in Split Gallery, Hot Shops Art Center, Apollon Art Space, Petshop Gallery, RBR G, and Michael Phipps Gallery.


Support Ang’s Art

Cashapp: $Anggbennett

Ang copy