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LGBTQ Communities and Social Policy Students Express Issues through Art

Authored by: Jessica Bautista

Photography by: Jessica Bautista

Student Life


Artistic expressions from School of Social Policy & Practice students lined the walls of the Caster Building lobby last week, bringing LGBTQ issues to life and encouraging diversity, dialogue and awareness throughout the SP2 community.

As part of an SP2 course, LGBTQ Communities and Social Policy, students were challenged to produce a creative piece of art that represents some aspect or dimension of significant LGBTQ issues. Poetry, music, dance, altered books, pop-ups, installation art work, vitrine display, collages, photography, zines and other forms of art were welcome.

The project’s colorful culmination took over the first floor of the Caster Building during a weeklong exhibit at the end of April. The exhibit, “Unlabeled: A Creative Showcase Inspired by the LGBTQ Community,” kicked off on April 28 and attracted dozens of spectators and passersby as the students’ artistic and educational displays and performances came to life.

“The idea for an exhibition of students’ artistic work was hatched in the last three weeks of the course, so we didn’t have a lot of time. Students were doing projects as their last assignment and students came up with the idea of having a collective display that might encourage dialogic encounters and conversations about LGBTQ issues, ways of being in the world, and how social work can be advocates for social change. There was tremendous enthusiasm for the idea,” said the course’s professor, Allan Irving, PhD.

“For many years, I have encouraged creative work that takes us beyond a student handing in a paper to an instructor. That is a private encounter; my view is that social work in much of its work can foster public events and happenings that are educational and even provocative,” Irving said. “A community forms, comes into being and speaks, is given voice. In my experience, students really come alive with this kind of work.”

Irving’s course examines the development of social policy within the context of LGBTQ social movements. Throughout the semester, students analyze policies and topics that include HIV/AIDS, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” same-sex marriage, adoption of children and pathologizing the LGBTQ community. The course is organized around presentations, seminar discussions, guest speakers, films and community exploration, and of course, exhibits.

“As the instructor, I am delighted with the students’ work and how they were so present [on Tuesday] – an important day with the supreme court hearing arguments for/against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage,” Irving said. “I do think this will be an experience that students will take into the future and perhaps have as an anchor in their ongoing work and advocacy.”

For photos of the exhibit, click on the thumbnail image at the top of this article or go here to see photos student Jenn Roesler’s shared.