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Award-Winning LGBTQ+ Documentary, ART AND PEP to be Widely Available June 1

Critically-acclaimed Independent documentary features the love, life and legacy of Art Johnston and José Pepe Peña, Chicago LGBTQ+ rights pioneers and owners of the iconic queer bar Sidetrack.

CHICAGO-- ART AND PEP, a feature documentary about LGBTQ+ civil rights leaders Art Johnston and José Pepe Peña, owners of the iconic Sidetrack bar in Chicago, will be available publicly beginning on June 1, 2023, to kick off Pride Month. For more than 40 years, Johnston and Peña have been a driving force behind LGBTQ+ equality in the heart of the country, with their bar fueling movements and creating community in Chicago’s Northside queer enclave. After screening at 25+ film festivals across the world, the film will premiere on Peacock beginning on June 1, 2023, and is available for purchase for educational and community screenings through Green Planet Films.  More information can be found at

The film, by Director Mercedes Kane, tells the inspiring story of the long struggle for equality and Johnston and Peña’s fight to allow everyone to love freely and has been lauded by critics and film festivals internationally, including:

Premiering on Peacock on
June 1, 2023


World Premiere: Outfest 2022


Audience Choice, Best Documentary Film, Chicago International Film Festival 

Festival Laurel Wreath White-02.png

Winner, Best Documentary, Stamped Film Festival 

“Works as both an intimate personal story and as a broader historical exploration … The result is a real charmer.”

-Peter Sobcynski,

“A simple love story about Art Johnston and Pepe Peña turned out to be a rich journey back in time.”

-Joey Moser, AwardsDaily

“A joyous tribute to LGBTQ+ bar culture.”

-Sam Rocher,

Art and Pep is an inspiring reminder of what the LGBTQ+ community can be at its best and a tribute to the vital role that our cherished bars continue to have at the centre of it.”

--James Kleinmann, The Queer Review

“At 40 years old, Sidetrack is a social and political force, and its owners are the subject of a new documentary.”

-USA Today

“The couple’s story, tied inextricably to Sidetrack and the movement for queer rights in Chicago, is the subject of director Mercedes Kane’s documentary, Art and Pep.”

-Chicago Magazine

“This story couldn’t come at a more important time for our country,”  said Kane. “ ART AND PEP will allow families across the country to see this queer love story as a great American love story and the price a community had to pay simply to live and love freely.”

ART AND PEP, distributed by Espresso Media International, will premiere on June 1 on NBCUniversal's Peacock Premium and Premium Plus. More information on the documentary can be found at and on Instagram @artandpep

About Art Johnston and José Pepe Peña

Before Art Johnston co-founded Equality Illinois, the state's oldest and largest civil rights organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people, he was a school teacher visiting Chicago from Virginia. Despite the risks of bar raids and arrests, Art wandered into a small gay bar one evening in 1973 and became smitten with the bartender, Pepe Peña, a Cuban immigrant who came to Chicago after fleeing Cuba. They’ve been inseparable ever since.

In 1982, Art and Pep opened their own bar, Sidetrack, which grew to become a cornerstone of the Midwest’s LGBTQ+ community, a central organizing point through the AIDS crisis, and propelled them into a life dedicated to activism and political power from the LGBTQ+ community. Their love led them to open a business, become champions for equality, and now in their late seventies, they continue to fight in the battle for full equality. 

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