Charles William Leslie was born on June 7th,1933 and raised in Deadwood South Dakota. After high school graduation he went to the The Pasadena Playhouse Collage of Theater Arts in 1951. After two years his studies were interrupted by being drafted into the United States Army. As a solider he served in the US occupation Army in Germany assigned to the allied headquarters command in Heidelberg where he spent another two years. Having become deeply engaged in all things European, he mustered out in Germany and auditioned for the Lotte Goslar Mime Ensemble which was currently in Amsterdam.
Using Amsterdam as their headquarters the company toured Europe for fourteen months, taking him to Sweden, Denmark, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. When the tour ended he took advantage of a US G.I. Bill program and entered the Sorbonne, University of Paris, where he remained for two years, apart from Paris and Amsterdam he lived for significant periods in Venice, Rome and London. He traveled broadly in Europe and made a memorable visit to Morocco in 1956. Upon returning to the United States he resumed work in the theater.
In New York City, he met his life partner Fritz Lohman, an internationally known interior designer. Together, they created the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation. Which was ultimately proclaimed a museum by the regents of the state of New York.
"Growing up gay in god-bitten America honed my sense of social justice to razor sharp."
Charles and Fritz were always politically involved with the gay rights movement and with Anti-Vietnam war activities. Charles still feels a little guilty about getting Fritz and himself arrested on numerous occasions.
His sense of justice has resulted in supporting the ACLU, Amnesty international, Lambda Legal, to name just a few, thus helping organizations to continue their work and impact the legislative process. In the arts the couple was given awards for supporting various gay causes like All Out Arts and the Tom of Finland Foundation.
In 2006 Out Magazine identified Charles and Fritz as part of their Out 100 list for 'having helped shape gay culture'.
The Art of Looking - A commentary on the museums collection, which turned into a rather intense inquiry concerning my personal life. Charles would go on to comment “if I had any secrets I no longer have them”.
Wilhelm Von Gloeden - At a small cocktail party hosted by the artist Paul Cadmus, one of the guests asked, "Paul, do you still have any of those old photographs by that German from Taormina?" Whereupon Paul produced 12 beautiful prints of nude Sicilian males from the turn of the Century. Charles became immediately fascinated and soon launched a serious inquiry actually going to Taormina to research the story. The result is a book about Wilhelm Von Gloeden.
And Lo! The Old Gods! - Ancient Greek mythology has been a source for artists throughout history, Charles decided to mount a show, challenging contemporary artists to produce work based on the homosexual stories in Greek Myth, of which there are many. The content in And Lo! The Old Gods! Is a letter to those artists.
Groundswell Quaterly - Charles was a regular contributor to the Anti-Vietnam war journal. He wrote observations about demonstrations in New York City and commentary about the position of America in foreign countries.
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the first and only dedicated LGBTQ art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve LGBTQ art, and foster the artists who create it. It has a collection of over 30,000 objects and offers several major exhibitions and events annually. Co-founders , Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman, have supported gay and lesbian artists for over 30 years. The Museum embraces the rich creative history of the LGBTQ art community by educating, informing, inspiring, entertaining, and challenging all who enter its doors.View the museum's website and visit at 26 Wooster St.
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