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    LGBTQ Studies and Contemporary Arts at Asawa SOTA Presents: ART!

    By Lyndsey Schlax–

    (Editor’s Note: Teacher Lyndsey Schlax of the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts launched the nation’s first on-site high school LGBT course in 2015. She has resumed teaching that groundbreaking class. In this column, her students share their thoughts about LGBT-related matters, including their concerns, what they have learned in class and more. The following article was written jointly by three of her students: two in Grade 12, and one in Grade 11.)

    The first LGBTQ+ studies class in any high school in the nation, right here at San Francisco’s School of the Arts, put on their third annual LGBTQ+ themed art gallery on Friday, December 8. The students in the class worked on the gallery for weeks and split up into groups to take charge of all aspects of the gallery. These aspects included aesthetics (descriptions of each piece and art placement), organization (layout of the gallery), commodities (refreshments and organization of these refreshments), and recording (interviewing attendees and taking photos of the gallery).

    Each student had an important job, and the teamwork the class utilized is what made the gallery possible. The LGBTQ+ studies class teamed up with the school’s Contemporary Art class, a new class this year whose members created original pieces for the gallery. Additionally, each student in the LGBTQ+ studies class chose a piece that they felt was important to display to a large audience, either a piece made by a member of the LGBTQ+ community or a piece that is representative of the LGBTQ+ community.

    The day of the exhibition, the students worked tirelessly with the help of their wonderful instructor, Ms. Lyndsey Schlax, to put the gallery together. Because of their careful preparation and organization, this set up went smoothly and the gallery came together beautifully. The students creating the exhibit were astounded by each other’s’ pieces and all of the beautiful art that they had never seen before, due to underrepresentation and lack of visibility of LGBTQ+ artists as well as professionals in all fields. This subject was something the students in this class have been studying throughout the semester, and this exhibit particularly solidified the concept in their minds.

    During the exhibition of the gallery, the students were excited to show off their pieces, as well as the original pieces made by the contemporary art students, to their peers and instructors. The majority of the teachers and heads of arts departments, as well as a multitude of students, made an appearance at the exhibition. The gallery received an incredibly positive response from all who viewed it.

    The head of the World Music department at SOTA was inspired by the art and “would like to see this kind of art in classrooms” and said that she planned to purchase some of the pieces for her classroom. One student experiencing the exhibit, who identified as queer, said that she “didn’t know that this many artists were queer.” It made her “feel like we are not alone in this world.”

    Based on those who were interviewed, the primary takeaway from the exhibit was that there are so many people in the LGBTQ+ community that are oppressed rather than appreciated and celebrated for their abilities, and that there is an entire untold history surrounding the LGBTQ+ community that very few people are aware of. All of those interviewed also believed that it was imperative that this history should continue to be told and that this class should expand out to other schools across the nation.

    Ms. Schlax summarized the essence of the class’ message and influence: “The importance of showing up and the belief that your voices matter—just because you can’t vote yet or because people might not be citizens, or because you might be young, or a member of a marginalized community or have multiple marginalized identities—doesn’t mean that you can’t make change. Working together in community and in solidarity is the way forward. Y’all are going to change the world.” 

    For more information about the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, please visit