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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

May 27, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Coffeehouse art showcase highlights LGBTQ artists of color

Hearts formed by Hershey’s Kisses lie on each table. Students sit around the tables, laughing. Every so often, somebody gets up to switch tables, look at the surrounding artwork and poetry set up like an open gallery or read some of the posters taped up on the wall with quotes on them. IC Splash of Color is not unlike other coffeehouse art shows, except all the artists are LGBTQ people of color.

IC Splash of Color was an art showcase that displays artwork from LGBTQ people of color, highlighting the talents of a marginalized community and bringing awareness to their presence on campus. The showcase was 79 p.m. on Sunday April 29 in Klingenstein Lounge and featured visual art such as photography, watercolor and drawings, as well as creative writing, performative art and spoken word.

The event was created by IC Proud, an on-campus organization created in Spring 2018 for LGBTQ people of color. Freshman Luis Saúl Valderrama is co-founder and co-president of IC Proud as well as the main coordinator that reached out to artists for IC Splash of Color. He said the showcase was a physical manifestation and expression of the club’s purpose.

“We want to just express that we’re here, and we exist and that there is a space for us,” he said.

Ronnie Benion, West Tower residence director and adviser for IC Proud, performed at IC Splash of Color. He said that the opportunities and organizations for LGBTQ people on the Ithaca College campus are there but are predominantly from a white lens and for white people. The club and the showcase offer another viewpoint.

The event featured three students and one faculty member who stood up in front of the audience, sharing poetry, short stories and music. There was also artwork and poetry not read aloud laid out on tables against the sides of the room. Works ranged from poetry about the intersection of race, religion and queer identity to drawings of the female body to dance videos.

Freshman Katelyn Monaco, an artist and queer-identifying person of color, submitted a watercolor painting created specifically for the event. She said that feeling more open about her sexual orientation and identity inspired her. The painting shows a dreaming woman with roses scattered over her shoulders and lips. For Monaco, being an out, queer person of color was always a dream. Because her middle name is Rose, the roses represent the difficulty she has talking about her identity with her family. Knowing that the space would be LGBTQ+ and people of color–friendly made her feel freer and safer to participate and display her own work. She said she felt comfortable talking about what inspired the piece.

“I just am in love with space and the different parts of the universe that are left unexplored,” she said. “There’s so much possibility there, and that’s how I view my sexual identity. There’s so much possibility, and I finally feel like I have the space to explore.”

Valderrama said the club did not want the space to feel formal or rigid, but be a chance to have a conversation with other people. Freshman Clarence Armour, co-founder and co-president of IC Proud, said creating this safe, open community was one of the event’s goals.

“This space isn’t only for artwork, it’s also to connect with people who are part of the community,” Armour said.

Bennion said that although the event was created to shine a light on the experiences of LGBTQ people of color, it was open to the entire college community. He said one of the main goals of IC Splash of Color was to show the stories of LGBTQ people of color so that straight people, LGBTQ-identifying people, white people and people of color could see the beauty of another side and connect to it.

“Yes, white LGBTQ folks and POC LGBTQ folks experience things different, but there are also things they experience very similarly, so this is a chance to see this is how we connect,” Benion said. “This is how we are the same, but this is also where we are different.”

Benion performed as well. His song’s lyrics highlighted the divide among different people’s identities and works to unite it. His original song, “Wanting You,” was about the need for self-love and addressed the self-doubt that comes from being an LGBTQ person of color. He said that those feelings of “Am I good enough?”, though they can be more difficult to grapple with when someone belongs to a marginalized community, or several marginalized communities, still exist no matter a person’s racial or sexual identity.

Not every piece was explicitly about LGBTQ or people of color’s experience. Freshman Madeleine Guerrier said that her photography does not usually have a specific meaning behind it but is just aesthetically appealing to her. The showcase was meant to display the diversity of experience, Valderrama said. Although the event emphasizes intersectional themes, unrelated work was also displayed. For Monaco, simply having that visibility for LGBTQ artists of color is what matters.

“Visibility in general is important for others to know they’re not alone and create a network of who you can fall back on and who your allies are,” she said.

IC Splash of Color was the first of what IC Proud said it hopes will be an annual event. Armour said the organization wants to continually provide space for LGBTQ people of color to connect, show off their talents and be proud.

“I think it goes along with the reason we created IC Proud, which was just to … build up a foundation for people who will be coming after us LGBTQ people of color.” Armour said.