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What: “Bubble-wrapped: Gay Life in Boulder, Colorado”

When: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café, 1203 13th St. Boulder

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Boulder’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community is coming out this week through University of Colorado senior Shannon Cleary’s art exhibit “Bubble-wrapped: Gay Life in Boulder, Colorado.”

The exhibit, which Cleary describes as a “community portrait and story-sharing project,” will open Wednesday at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café, 1203 13th St., on Boulder’s University Hill.

Portraits of Boulder residents who identify as LGBT will hang on the walls, accompanied by quotes describing each person’s triumphs and struggles with their sexuality.

“I wouldn’t say the tone is positive or negative, it’s really all over the place,” Cleary said. “I wanted it to reflect the diversity of the community and the different experiences that were shared.”

Cleary interviewed the 14 participants, including one anonymous contributor, about the connection between living in Boulder and their LGBT status.

One participant described how spirituality was impacted, another talked about identifying as both lesbian and transgender, and others told stories about coming out to friends and family, Cleary said.

The participants, who range in age from 20s to 70s, come from varying backgrounds, providing a broad picture of Boulder’s gay community, she said.

Innisfree owner Brian Buckley said “Bubble-wrapped” will fit well into the store’s environment, which promotes diversity, creativity and inclusion.

“When (my wife) and I designed and created the space, one of the important elements for us was full inclusion of writers from all ethnicities, backgrounds, sexual orientations and to be a completely democratic space,” Buckley said.

The bookstore and coffee shop has been hosting local artists’ works from photography to watercolor and oil paintings since its opening at the end of 2010. The café rotates the work about every month, Buckley said. Cleary’s exhibit will be on display through March 19.

The concept developed when Cleary’s former supervisor at the equality organization Out Boulder (where Cleary currently works as an intern) asked her to develop a project that would explore LGBT life in Boulder.

Cleary said her own struggle with sexuality lead to the project’s story-telling style.

Cleary said she looked for comfort in the book, “Boulder Voices,” released by a local LGBT organization in the ’90s. She said hearing other’s stories helped her come to terms with her own identity as well as develop a goal for her project.

“It was comforting and touching to find stories I could relate to, and some I hadn’t even thought about that were part of this community,” Cleary said.

Cleary said she plans to turn the interviews and portraits she collected for “Bubble-wrapped” into a book.

“I hope it can be a community-builder for the LGBTQ community of Boulder,” she said. “It’s a lofty goal, but that’s my ultimate dream.”

Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.

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