The Visiting Scholars Program: 2020

The Leather Archives & Museum is pleased to announce the 2020 Visiting Scholar, Michael Thomas Vassallo, selected from a very competitive field of research proposals seeking to use the LA&M archival collections. Vassallo will receive a $1,000 stipend, as well as travel support to conduct research on-site in the archives. While travel will not be possible until a later date, LA&M staff will help Vassallo begin virtual research in the coming weeks.

Michael Thomas Vassallo is a filmmaker, writer and artist working between narrative and experimental forms. He is interested in and influenced by horror cinema, teen films, the French New Wave, Dogme 95, the occult, queer cinema, Surrealism, and punk, metal, and goth subcultures. His work has shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia,) the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art, and Reeling: The Chicago LGBT Film Festival.

Vassallo completed his BA in cinema studies at the University of Pennsylvania as well as additional postgraduate work in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Vassallo is working on a feature-length documentary, The Leather Man, tracing the history and cultural impact of the iconic leather store—and its owner Chuck Mueller—which continues to operate on Christopher Street in NYC where it opened in 1965. The film will explore the effect of the store on erotics and visual culture, now extending beyond the gay leather subculture. The film will also consider how The Leather Man effected and was affected by Stonewall, the AIDS crisis, and the continual gentrification of the neighborhood around it.

The Visiting Scholars program is funded through a generous grant from Leather Sins, hosts of Kinky Kollege in Chicago, IL.



Past Recipients

2010 Anthony Easton, University of Toronto
2011 David K. Johnson, Ph.D. University of South Florida
2012 Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone, Ph.D. University of Central Missouri
2012 Honorable Mention Steven Ruszczycky, University at Buffalo, SUNY
2014 Lily Emerson, University of Auckland, New Zealand
2014 Honorable Mention Ying-Chao Kao, Rutgers University
2015 Anna Robinson, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands and Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
2015 Honorable Mention Tara Burke, Independent scholar and art historian
2016 Francisco Ibàñez-Carrasco Ph.D. and Erica Meiners, Ph.D.
2016 Scott Herring, Indiana University
2017 Kirin Wachter-Grene, New York University
2018 Heather Raquel Phillips, University of Pennsylvania
2020 Michael Thomas Vassallo, Temple University


Founded in 1991, the Leather Archives & Museum has become recognized worldwide as a significant center dedicated to the compilation, preservation, and maintenance of primary materials on the leather, kink, BDSM and fetish communities and their cultures in both physical and electronic formats. Our museum galleries serve to present educational and historical material that highlights the silent histories of marginalized and under-represented communities while the archives and library serve the needs of scholars, writers and artists.

The LA&M is located on Greenview Avenue in Chicago near Loyola University. The building houses the Teri Rose Library with holdings of over 3,000 books and 12,600 journals and periodicals, a 1425 sq. ft. archival storage space, and eight exhibit galleries. the Guest Artist Gallery (GAG) with rotating exhibits that celebrate contemporary artists who inspire dialogues related to Leather, kink, BDSM and fetish and a community space used for programming and special events.

The LA&M is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a charity under the 501 c (3) provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Nearly all income is derived from the generous support of members and organizations within the leather/kink/BDSM/fetish communities.