BUILDING CONFIDENCE THROUGH ART
Blog #3 November 20, 2020
BY JOHN GASCOT
Yesterday I gave an hour-long artist talk. It hosted by Equality Florida and attended by LGBTQ 8-12th graders. Earlier in the week I felt terribly stressed about it. A whole 60 minutes is a long time to talk about oneself, or so I thought. Before I knew it an hour had flown by and it was Q & A time. Turns out the kids loved it and left uplifted and inspired as do I. I always feel revitalized after working with youth so this week I want to tell you about my nonprofit Diversity Arts.
Art is powerful.
Art is empowering.
Diversity Arts aims to support underserved youth and communities by providing safe environments, guidance and materials for creative self-discovery, expression and sociocultural interaction.
I founded Diversity Arts in 2016. The project began as a one-off workshop geared toward LGBTQ Youth. My husband and I received an anonymous letter from a neighbor containing homophobic slurs and detailing our daily household activities. Its sole purpose; to instill fear and shame.
I refused to accept this neighbor’s intimidation tactics and immediately set to create something positive and productive out of the situation. Truth be told my initial reaction was “I’m painting the f*cking house rainbow!!!” My husband talked me off that ledge.
We made the incident public via social media and local news to let the letter’s author know that their act of bigotry had the opposite of its intended effect. I feel passionate about empowering disenfranchised youth and groups with self-esteem so that they are equipped to deal with such situations should/when they arise. And let’s face it, in the current sociopolitical climate, commonly do.
After the first workshop, I began working with homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth. Bit by bit demand for the workshops and activities increased. I created the nonprofit in order to fund the work through grants and donations. Workshops and activities are currently offered in-studio, at schools and community centers (and recently virtually). I envision a Diversity Arts Center in the future. The center would hold ongoing after-school art and youth development programming taught by a staff of educators and facilitators. A gallery space would host exhibits by artists from underserved and diverse communities who have overcome adversity to reach their professional artistic goals.
If you’re interested in supporting Diversity Arts you can do so here.