Arts West June 6 Fundraiser for PRISM to Feature First Country Queers Exhibition

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On Thursday, June 6, Arts West will kick off their Pride month programming with a fundraiser for PRISM, an after school art program for LGBTQIA youth. The fundraiser will feature music by the Corndoggers, lots of food and refreshments, and art for sale made by the members of PRISM. Also on display in the upstairs gallery of Arts West will be the first ever Country Queers exhibition.

Country Queers is a multimedia oral history project that seeks to illuminate the experiences of queer and trans people in rural and small town settings, started by Rachel Garringer in 2013. WOUB’s Emily Votaw spoke to Garringer about Country Queers and the upcoming Arts West PRISM fundraiser in the interview above.

Jolena Hansbarger, the events coordinator for Arts West, explained that all proceeds from the event will directly benefit PRISM, in the form of purchasing various art supplies, snacks, and perhaps even paying artists to visit with the group in the coming year.  She said that while the art in the upper gallery will be coming to Arts West courtesy of the Country Queers, any of the art on the walls in the lower portion of Arts West will be made by PRISM members, and the sale of any of that will directly go into the pockets of those young people.

“The pieces from the PRISM group that will be for sale are from the various projects that we did throughout this season — but it’s not even close to all the work that they have been doing,” Hansbarger said. “A lot of them have been taking work home with them, and some of the work is art that members of the group have made on their own time because some of them are actively making art by themselves at home. I think that it is worth it to show them that they can show their work, and none of them had had their work shown in a gallery space like this before.”

Although certainly the young artists will feel empowered by the sale of any of their works, Hansbarger said the importance of PRISM goes far beyond that.

“Making art can be a very important thing for any queer youth, especially because in this region there isn’t a lot of high school programming that is directed at them. In making PRISM, we saw a need in the community for a space for queer kids and trans kids, and LGBT youth in general to feel that they are not only welcome, but that they are free to express themselves however they want, and art is a great outlet for that,” said Hansbarger. “Art is something that was important to me in my process of coming out, and it helped me get through a lot, so it’s important to provide programming for youth like this that allows them to express themselves and create a network for themselves.”