Fenix art show features work of LGTBQIA+ youngsters

Fenix art show features work of LGTBQIA+ youngsters

When planning the annual exhibit and activities for Pride Month in June at Fenix Arts, Taylor Johnson naturally looked to the next generation.

She heads up the Fenix Youth Refuge Experience (FYRE) for LGTBQIA+ kids ages 12-18. Over the last year, Johnson has helped build the program to help students practice art and express themselves. Now those same students will exhibit art alongside adult artists: Cory Perry, EK Chitwood, Dandy Pants Art, Auren Haynie, Amber Imrie, Tara Fletcher-Gibbs, Jackson Shane, Ianna Williams Rae Tedeton and Ike Fleck.

An opening reception will be from 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 1 at the Fenix Arts Gallery in Millar Lodge on the Mount Sequoyah Center campus in Fayetteville.

The evening will include live music from The Misdemeanors, Prospects, Liam Fast and Trinity Ashlynn, all of whom are members of the NWA Collective, “a music community of underage bands and soloists that write, perform and record together,” according to Milcah Hulen-Posnak, a member of the group who also helped organize this show.

There will also be food, drink and, of course, work by a generation of LGTBQIA+ artists on the first day of Pride Month.

“This year is a little bit more special because we have FYRE and because we have this extra funding that we didn’t before,” Johnson says of funding from the Walmart Foundation and the Little Rock branch of NAMI — National Alliance on Mental Illness.

After helping to steer last year’s events, Johnson started meeting with a group of like-minded community activists through NAMI to boost LGBT+ programs around the state.

“Many are a part of LGBT+ organizations and/or organize LGBT+ events like Drag Queen Story Hours, PRIDE celebrations, and other programming designed for LGBT+ individuals,” Johnson says.

“We gave out well over $100,000” in the end, she adds, which helped set up Pride organizations and community groups and allowed the FYRE program at Mount Sequoyah to host classes in the summer and add classes for adults, Johnson says.

“We’re pivoting to something a little different [by] focusing more on mental health,” Johnson says.

“As queer people, we want to walk a fine line between celebration and support. We don’t want to be victims. And we want to enjoy our lives just as much as other people,” Johnson says. “We want a good mix of events where we forget our problems, and we can just have a good time together.”

Johnson wants to “get as many people up here celebrating as possible,” she adds.

After the opening night party, there will be a panel discussion moderated again this year by Jacqueline Froelich that will hopefully contain youthful voices.

“I am opening up a panel seat to the FYRE kids; it’ll be up to parents, really, whether or not they can be involved .. then maybe two to three [panelists] just from the general exhibition, hopefully, one high school student” discussing their art, says Johnson.

And thanks to the extra funding, FYRE will be extended into summer classes for both kids and adults. Offerings include figure drawing, punch needle and cyanotype classes.

“The adult classes are a part of FYRE, but only for the summer. The FYRE program is designed for LGBT+ students aged 12-18, but we wanted to expand classes to adults because they’re part of the community, too! We wanted as many people as possible to be able to enjoy art,” Johnson says. “That’s why our queer show this year is called ‘Generations.’ It’s easy to focus on one subset of the LGBT+ population when organizing cool things when we all can benefit from fun, exciting events! All of us together make the amazing community that exists in Northwest Arkansas today.”

The June events will culminate with a pool party at Mount Sequoyah hosted by NWA Equality..

“It’s going to be super fun. There’s going to be some food trucks and games at the pool with a DJ,”Johnson says of the June 25 adults-only event.

There will also be resource booths offering support by means of “pamphlets or banners, and information sheets, to binders, if they want to do that, or condoms or whatever that organization specializes in,”Johnson adds. “We want to throw a little bit their way for labor and material, and they get to come to the pool party and hang out with us too.”

More information on “Generations” is at fenixarts.org. Information on the pool party and more Pride events can be found at nwapride.org. Information about the FYRE program is at mountsequoyah.org.



‘Generations’ & More

WHAT — Fenix Arts celebrates Pride Month with the exhibit “Generations,” featuring art by Cory Perry, EK Chitwood, Dandy Pants Art, Auren Haynie, Amber Imrie, Tara Fletcher-Gibbs, Jackson Shane, Ianna Williams Rae Tedeton and Ike Fleck with performances by Trinity Ashlynn, Liam Fast, Prospects And The Misdemeanors.

WHEN — Opening reception is 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 1. The exhibit will be on display through the end of June.

“Generations” artist panel moderated by Jacqueline Froelich will be from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on June 2.

Youth and adults classes during Pride month include figure drawing taught by local artist Colleen D’Antoni featuring drag performer Umami Origami, 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. June 5 and June 6; punch needle with Tara Fletcher-Gibbs, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m. June 12-13; cyanotype prints with Helen Maringer, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m. June 19-20.

WHERE — All events at Fenix Gallery, 150 N. Skyline Drive in Fayetteville

INFO — For full schedule and registration visit fenixarts.org

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