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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 15, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 7
An exhibit of hope - Calligraphic works celebrate the lives and struggles of LGBT teens
Arts & Entertainment
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An exhibit of hope - Calligraphic works celebrate the lives and struggles of LGBT teens

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

OUT OF THE SILENCE
URBAN ONION (at the Hotel Olympian)
Olympia, WA
Through April 2013


Bullying is a growing problem in today's schools. Stories of kids failing in school - and even committing suicide - due to bullying have become commonplace. There are many ways to stand up to bullying, but one of the most creatively presented is an art exhibit entitled Out of the Silence, currently at the Urban Onion Restaurant and Lounge (inside the Hotel Olympian) in Olympia. As the brochures describe it, 'Out of the Silence is an exhibit celebrating Diversity, Love & Understanding.' What it does is set up a visual feast of thoughtful, inspiring, and provocative quotes that represent some of the many voices standing up to bullying. And the proceeds go to Pizza Klatch, an Olympia organization whose goal is to reduce the rate of suicide (and attempted suicide) among LGBTQ students.

In a collection of 60 calligraphic pieces, 39 artists from around the country have donated time and their collective works to the exhibit. Blending a variety of mediums at its core, these individual artworks are presented with a provocative saying, or even a simple single sentence with their origins coming from as diverse backgrounds as the artwork itself. Each piece is accompanied by a different quotation, bringing together an eclectic source of support and understanding from not only the individual artists, but others who have struggled to make a difference.

Printed in bold capital letters, against a vivid red kaleidoscope background, Martin Luther King Jr.'s words are presented: 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.' On what looks like a slate background is Plato's sage adage: 'One can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light.' There are also some sources that might surprise the exhibit visitor. 'Ten people who speak are more noise than 10,000 that are silent' is one from Napoleon Bonaparte. 'One must no more deplore homosexuality than left-handedness' is a quote on a rainbow background surrounding a green left hand. The source is 'A Quaker View of Sex, ed. 1964.' The exhibit's creator, Sally Penley, produced this particular piece.

INSPIRED BY PFLAG
It was in January 2012 that Penley attended a PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) sponsored event in Olympia. When a New York songwriter began performing a song about his own experiences, Penley was so moved that she decided to figure out a way to help the fight against LGBTQ youth-bashing and suicide. 'I decided to use what I had as resources,' Penley remembers when coming up with the idea. 'I do calligraphy as a hobby, so I decided to reach out to the community.' Attending a national calligraphy convention in Portland shortly afterwards, Penley put out the idea and was met with enthusiastic support. 'I received many submissions,' she said. 'So many, in fact, that I had to turn a few down.' Eventually, she settled on 38 artists from the United States and 1 from Canada, producing 60 pieces to exhibit.

'One of my inspirations for creating the exhibit,' Penley explained, 'was Bill Clayton.' Clayton was a boy of 17 years who took his life after a Gay-bashing incident.

'I was so moved by his story and stories about other kids who had committed suicide,' Penley remembered. 'I knew I couldn't be silent about these unnecessary tragedies.' In fact one of the last pieces on exhibit is a portrait of Bill Clayton with his own quote: 'This is not my choice. This is not forced upon me. This just is.' To further bring awareness of the subject matter, Penley decided to team up with another local organization, Pizza Klatch.

HIGH SCHOOL OUTREACH
When her son first identified himself as being homosexual, Lynn Grotsky thought they'd have an easier time with it, since he had Lesbian parents. But the struggles her son faced were no different from any other LGBTQ youth in any other school. Grotsky decided to do something about it and, using one of the most popular high school student foods, she invented the Pizza Klatch ('klatch' is defined as 'a gathering characterized usually by informal conversation').

The Klatch meetings are held during lunch period and are open to all LGBTQ youth and their allies. 'Many students first come to our klatch under the guise of being an ally,' Grotsky says. 'It helps them become more comfortable with the meetings and to allow themselves a 'cover' if asked why they are attending the meetings.' With the idealism of keeping the meetings open to all, the volunteer facilitators make sure they are run with a safe and respectful space for anyone wanting to attend.

'We started out in 2008,' Grotsky says, 'hoping to create an awareness in schools. Today we have started in our seventh school already, with 13 different groups going, and find ourselves being requested to come in by different schools.' In Grotsky's experience, 'there are over 200 kids in our groups and at least two of them [in each group] identify as being Trans. So we start off by asking each member what pronoun they'd prefer to be identified [by].'

COMING SOON TO SEATTLE
Out of the Silence will continue after it leaves the Urban Onion. In April 2013 the exhibit will move to Seattle, where it will be on display at the UW School of Law.

'The pieces will be eventually auctioned off,' Penley says, 'with the money going to further support Pizza Klatch.' Prints, cards, and art images are available for purchase now at www.out-of-the-silence-exhibit.artistwebsites.com, but all original pieces must stay within the exhibit until 2014. For more information on how to help out with Pizza Klatch, or to request a school visitation from the group, contact Lynn Grotsky at http://pizzaklatch.org.

The meaning of the exhibit is expressed in one of its quotes, and fittingly, it is by Harvey Milk: 'You gotta give 'em hope.'

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