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Sadie Barnette, The New Eagle Creek Saloon at ICA LA

by Essence Harden

Installation view of The New Eagle Creek Saloon at ICA LA (Photo by Svet Jacqueline)

“The New Eagle Creek Saloon” (2019) is the latest work of multi-disciplinary artist Sadie Barnette. Originally exhibited at the San Francisco experimental art institution The Lab in May of 2019, “The New Eagle Creek Saloon” has arrived at the ICA LA for the fall season. Barnette’s New Eagle Creek is an homage to her father Rodney Barnette’s bar, The Eagle Creek Saloon, the first (perhaps the last) black-owned gay bar in San Francisco. Open from 1990–1993, the original Eagle Creek was a refute of the anti-black practices of predominantly white-owned queer establishment on the foggy side of the bay. Met with demands for three forms of identification, dress codes, and stopping music when black patrons danced closely together, the ’90s queer bar scene in San Francisco mirrored the white supremacist practices throughout the states; black music yes, black people no. When the senior Barnette was propositioned to purchase the bar he tended at Barnette quickly said yes, spending months revamping the Market street dive into a place of shine and luster. The original Eagle Creek Saloon was decidedly for black queer refuge, community formation, activism, and those who found themselves in need of a home. Or as the senior Barnette put it at a recent talk at ICA LA, The Eagle Creek Saloon could be thought of as a community center which served alcohol.

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