For the most part, the world is very angry right now. We are protesting, striking, marching, writing, live streaming, and yet, we can barely keep up with the headlines of Donald Trump’s latest dangerous decision. However, there are a lot of people who aren’t just angry but are also frightened. As Trump’s America explicitly drags the welcome mat from underneath women, Muslim, and LGBTQ-identifying people, real life, bricks and mortar safe spaces are more important than ever.
That’s why Open Art Space – a free drop-in programme for LGBTQ-identifying teens and their allies who want to create art in a welcoming environment – has launched a weekly drop-in programme for teens at New York’s MoMA. On until April, no previous art experience is necessary and participants are encouraged to, “Make Art. Meet People. Explore Ideas. Be Yourself”. It’s also advertised that snacks and Metrocards will be provided to participants each week. The only necessity is that you are of “highschool age”.
As reported in the Huffington Post, the programme, run by two artists, will offer guided tours of the museum’s galleries alongside sessions for art-making. MoMA Teaching Artist and Open Art Space Co-Creator, Mark Joshua Epstein, said, “We endeavor to create a space where LGBTQ teens feel heard, supported, and recognised and we hope they can take that feeling of support with them through their daily lives.”
Last year, at the culmination of Open Art Space’s summer residency at MoMA, Epstein wrote on the importance of safe spaces for LGBTQ-identifying teens. In the article, the artist, teacher and curator, who identifies as LGBTQ, recounted the “quiet backlash” he received when he came out during highschool. Although acknowledging that LGBTQ-identifying teens are generally more accepted in today’s society than when he was a teen, he stresses the importance of going beyond acceptance: “Open Art Space is a place where we aim to go way beyond acceptance. Acceptance alone is lazy, it’s passive, it’s begrudging. At OAS we aim higher. Let us celebrate, appreciate, and admire our LGBTQ teens, they are, as we have learned this past year, worthy of all those things and more.”
The first Open Art Space drop-in programme will take place this Thursday 2 February from 4.30pm at MoMA New York. With creativity at risk and alternative voices under more threat than ever, here’s hoping we see some international institutions follow suit.
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