Meet Britt Westveer, the artist behind the “We’ve Always Been Here” pride mural located at West Hollywood City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Blvd., which was installed in time for pride month in late May. The artist graciously granted us a Q&A to discuss her new art installation on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sweetzer Avenue.
The 10×20 wheatpasted mural artwork is a collection of three large, printed posters featuring digital collages made from found imagery and the artist’s own archives depicting the long history of diverse LGBTQIA+ people who have “always been here.”
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Milwaukee but grew up outside the city in West Bend Wisconsin. It’s a small town with a lot of rural areas, which was great for growing up, but I eventually moved to Chicago, then back to Milwaukee for school in my late twenties.
What’s your connection to West Hollywood?
It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m not in my current neighborhood, Los Feliz. They have the best library, galleries, and community center. I always feel welcomed.
Who or what influenced you to become an artist?
My parents have always supported my interest in the arts. Then they realized that I was passionate about it, so they enrolled me in public art classes and were the ones who talked me into applying and attending the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. I was mostly unsure of applying because of how expensive private college can be, but I actually ended up getting grants and a scholarship. So if you’re questioning if you should apply to your dream school or job, just do it! Besides my family inspiring me, I knew I wanted to be an artist because of how much joy I felt while creating. It felt right.
How did you become involved with WeHo Arts?
I ended up applying to their temporary public arts grant and was soon after contacted by the arts department and city council to present my proposal in front of them. They’re extremely helpful, understanding, and excited about new artists, and it was amazing working with them. I haven’t experienced a city so involved in their artist community. They’re very supportive and encouraging of all of us.
You work in many different multi-medias, what is your favorite?
Oh, that’s a hard question. My main medium is photography, and has been for over a decade, but experimenting with media is one of my favorite ways to create. The school I went to, MIAD, encouraged us to try as many mediums as we wanted before we chose a focus, so I was lucky to experience so many different mediums, including printmaking, photography, bookmaking, and woodworking. I started textile and fiber art in 2019, and have since fallen in love with quilting and embroidery. My senior thesis ended up merging both photography and quilting. I was able to experiment with printing some of my photography collages onto cotton fabric using a large format printer. It was scary knowing that no one at my school had tried this before, but my teachers and mentors were always pushing for us to go big. It’s still one of my favorite pieces and is hanging in my dining room as we speak.
What can you tell us about your new mural at City Hall?
I’m a researcher. I easily get pulled down rabbit holes and will hyperfocus on a subject that interests me and inspires me. This is one of them. It combines my love for queer history, photography, the desert, the wild west, and erasure of identity. I’ve been collecting historical images of LGBTQIA+ people who lived during the ‘Old West” for years, and I wanted to create a large collage of these images to show the diversity of our community. Besides using real people, I also added figures from vintage ads. These ads were created during a time where most people were not represented in the media, so I cut them out and added them to my landscape. Let’s call it revisionist digital collaging. Through the use of my own storytelling, I aim to demystify myths of the Old West and generate a discussion about people who identify as queer during an era that has been consistently populated with cis-male centered folklore and glamorization.
What message do you hope your mural will convey?
I want people to feel that they are seen and heard. I want everyone else to realize that there’s history they were never taught about the LGBTQIA+ and POC community. Educate yourself and others if you’re able. There’s power in community. I also want to showcase the beauty of California, the general southwest, and the people who have lived before us. There are a few state plants and animals hidden in the mural They all symbolize regrowth, resilience, and compassion.
Love the title: “We’ve Always Been Here”, are the couples in the mural authentic images from each time period?
Thank you. I wanted the title to be a strong message to anyone who is trying to erase our history as well as restrict us. It’s important to talk about our rich history – we’re not going anywhere. Some of the couples are authentic, I wanted to show real people from the past who have paved the way for us. Many of the images are uncredited, so I don’t know the names of some of the people in my work, which saddens me, but also empowers me to keep educating and making.
Being a Queer artist, what does it mean to have your art displayed in West Hollywood for WEHO PRIDE?
When the city decided that my work would be on the front of City Hall for Pride, I was shocked and grateful. It didn’t sink in until the mural was completely done. It never does until that final moment, because of the anxiety and excitement of installing. I ended up standing in front of it, just staring for a few minutes. It was emotional.
Do you remember your first Pride?
I do! My first official Pride was in Chicago, right after gay marriage became legal. I remember being in Boystown for the parade, and watching a couple get legally married on a float in front of me. Everyone was so entranced by the moment. It somehow felt intimate while being in a crowd of thousands.
What are you looking forward to this year’s Pride Month?
I always love watching the community celebrate. There’s something about being surrounded by acceptance and happiness. Honestly, large events can sometimes be overwhelming for me but when I’m around joyous people in a loving setting it helps me stay grounded. Also to everyone celebrating this month, stay safe, don’t burn yourself out, be kind, and take care of each other.
What is next for you?
I want to continue to create this type of imagery and be more involved with public arts. Lately, I’ve been feeling the urge to make another quilt and to get into fiber arts again. My commissions are also open. Contact me if you’re interested in my work.
Where can people find you on social media?
I’m on instagram under @petit_noodle. I also have a website with my whole portfolio on it if you’d like to see more- https://brittanywestveer.myportfolio.com.
Please feel free to message me, follow me, share my work. It helps me as an upcoming artist, and I always enjoy talking to people about my art practice.