Art for Change, a nonprofit providing a forum for creating art that inspires social justice, recently opened an exhibit in Spanish Harlem called “Know Gays Aloud.” According to operations chair William Collazo, it “gravitates around four issues of social justice: immigration, LGBT, women’s issues, and poverty/education—we see them as going hand in hand.”
Collazzo sees violence against LGBT people of color as “a perfectly timely issue,” despite significant progress in obtaining equal rights in the United States. Increased hostility in the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Africa has led to a rise in murders and teen suicides worldwide.
The dozen featured artists try to address those problems in a socially conscious and relevant way. “You have people who have fought for equality for their people, yet the LGBT community is exempted from this,” he said. “They are not people. Their community looks at them as an aberration.”
But the pieces in the exhibit speak for themselves.
“My favorite piece is ‘God is a Queer [by D. Shayne Aldrich],’” Colazzo said. He also mentioned “There are No Gays in Iran,” by Michael J. DiRaimondo, which features a man with a gay flag painted on his chest and a bullet shot straight through his forehead with red blood splattering down.
Allyza Lustig, BC ’11 and a volunteer at the exhibit, appreciated the organization’s concrete nature. “AFC is special because it takes art off the pedestal and connects it with real-world social issues that are relevant to the surrounding community.”
For Lustig, the message of the artists’ work and the emotion behind it exceeded her expectations. “Listening to everyone express themselves as individuals and as part of the larger LGBTQ community was very powerful. Whether their work was biographical, recounting a historical event, or based more on ideas and theory, each and every work was profoundly personal,” she said.
Columbia students could get involved with the group by contributing art, visiting the gallery, coming to the opening and closing events, or volunteering, Lustig said. “As a Barnard/Columbia student, I felt I did not have much of a connection with the surrounding community. Working with AFC is a wonderful way to get involved and learn outside of the university bubble.”
The exhibit runs in its exhibition space (1699 Lexington Avenue) every Saturday through June 16 from 1-5 p.m.