CHICAGO — It’s a story of two lives built in Chicago, but on the big screen.
‘Art and Pep’ documents the nearly 50-year relationship between Art Johnston and Jose Pena, whose nickname is ‘Pepe.’
The film, which made its debut at the Chicago International Film Festival, traverses the early gay rights movement, AIDs crisis and the fight for marriage equality through the Chicago lens of Johnston and Pena’s relationship.
Since the early 1980’s, the couple have owned Sidetrack, a Lakeview bar on North Halsted, but they are also the driving force behind Equality Illinois, a LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group.
Johnston and Pena hope the film inspires those in the Chicago LGBTQ+ community and shows them they can be happy and successful too.
“We are the most unlikely bar owners, the most unlikely activists,” Johnston said. “And yet it all came together, and I hope that folks get the message that they can do the same things only better.”