The People’s Arts Collective of New Haven — a gallery and studio space located on College Street — will soon double as a weekly social space for the city’s LGBTQ youth.
Starting March 25, the PAC will be open to local high school and college students for a new program called “LGBTQ Kickback Space,” which includes social activities, a mentorship program and workshops on queer-related issues from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Monday. The program is staffed by a group of volunteer organizers that currently includes around 10 Yale undergraduates, graduate students and New Haven residents, and organizers said they expect 20 to 40 students to attend the first meeting. The space will fill a gap in New Haven’s resources for LGBTQ youth because existing programs are not regular or widely used, said organizer Kenneth Reveiz ’12, who works at PAC and teaches at the New Haven Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.
“A lot of the programming and reasons for the space [come from my] conversations with youth,” Reveiz said. “In my work at the [Co-op High School] … there’s a real opportunity for building community and supporting individuals.”
Gay-Straight Alliance chapters at high schools around the city are not highly active, Reveiz said, and the New Haven Pride Center is located in West Haven, so there is no visible queer space in the city. But PAC is located across the street from Co-op High School and along bus routes from other city high schools, making it convenient for students, he added.
Organizers plan to host speakers or lead workshops in the first hour and offer social activities in the second, said organizer Baldwin Giang ’14. Volunteers have the freedom to lead their own workshops, he said, and workshop topics that have been proposed include a mental health resources panel, a queer reading group and presentations on applying to college as an LGBTQ student.
“Even though we’re going to have workshops led by Yale and community volunteers, however the goal really is to empower new high school students,” Giang said. “We want the effort to be student-driven.”
High school students will be involved in designing the space’s website, producing LGBTQ and sexual health resource material and creating pride paraphernalia such as stickers, buttons and posters to decorate their schools and communities, Reveiz said. Learning Web design and creating publicity materials will teach high school students the necessary skills to lead LGBTQ communities outside of the Kickback Space, he said. Meanwhile, he added, posting pride paraphernalia around New Haven high schools will make a “powerful difference” in ensuring schools are accepting atmospheres for the city’s LGBTQ youth, he added.
One junior at Co-op High School, who requested anonymity because she has not yet come out to her family, said no similar spaces are as accessible and well-known to high school students.
“Personally, there was a time in my life that I thought I was never going to be able to accomplish much because I felt like something was wrong with me,” she said. “So it means a lot to have a place where we can create our own space and feel like we’re accomplishing something.”
The project will cost upwards of $1,500 this year, mainly due to costs of offering printing and art resources, as well as plans to build up a resource library of LBGTQ-related books, music and films, Reveiz said. He added that PAC is looking into several sources of funding, including Yale’s Office of LGBTQ Resources.
The People’s Arts Collective was founded in August 2012.
Correction: March 5
A previous version of this article included a quotation with sensitive information. The relevant portion of the quotation has since been removed.