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Kayla Coleman
Photo by Jade Wilson

Kayla Coleman

Kayla Coleman

Kayla Coleman

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

In January 2022, art historian, curator, educator, and writer Kayla Coleman became the director of North Carolina’s VAE Raleigh, a nonprofit organization that produces, funds, and exhibits socially engaged art through community collaboration. The first Black woman to run VAE Raleigh in its 43-year history, Coleman describes her work as “specializing in post-colonialism and dismantling the matrix of domination.”

Under Coleman’s leadership, VAE Raleigh has curated exhibits on the Black family home, healing and autonomy, southern QTBIPOC resistance, and queer Appalachia. Before joining VAE Raleigh, Coleman was the deputy director of Percent for Art for New York City, where she commissioned hundreds of site-specific projects by diverse artists.

But things weren’t always easy for Coleman, who was outed when she was very young. “The largest obstacle I have faced [in my life] is being my authentic self despite family expectations and pressures of the world,” she says. “I was fortunate to know myself deeply at a time where others were just figuring it out, and I stayed the course even when I felt alone, and now things are better than I ever could have imagined.”

Coleman was recently named executive director of the New England Museum Association, where she hopes to create “inroads in diversity, equity, and inclusion.” While making the art world more diverse, equitable, and inclusive is a big part of her work, she also emphasizes the importance of showing up during this political time.

“The LGBTQIA+ community is multifaceted and enduring, but with the current political climate, our rights are being repealed at every turn,” says Coleman. “Be active in your community, exercise your voting rights at all levels, practice mutual aid, and organize! People deserve the right to live their authentic lives.”


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