by Cynthia Ntinunu
On Tuesday Mar. 20, the Stonewall Center of the University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted a LGBTQIA+ Art Showcase and Open Mic night. Held in Bartlett Hall, the event was broken up into two parts.
The night started off with snacks and a gallery walk. The gallery featured over 15 artists with art pieces ranging from paintings, embroidery, photography, knitting, and more. People were able to walk through and admire the work that artists created as a rotation of chill music, like Solange’s latest album When I Get Home, played in the background.
The showcase aimed to serve multiple purposes. Besides giving artists a space to present their work, it was a space where the LGBTQIA+ community could be supported. A platform for them to express themselves through art. Jackie De La Rosa, one of the artists who participated in the showcase, spoke about the importance of having events and spaces like these.
“Having a platform for LGBTQIA+ folks allow us to not only survive but also to thrive in a place where we would otherwise be struggling in finding a voice or others with similar ideas and backgrounds to connect with,” De La Rosa said.
On top of being a supportive environment, it was also a time for allies who didn’t identify as LGBTQIA+ to come and support. De La Rosa believes people who aren’t part of the LGBTQIA+ community should come have conversations and allow those in the community to speak on behalf for themselves.
“I want people that don’t identify as LGBTQIA+ to understand the importance of us having platforms like this and to support us. This support should look like “passing the mic” to us, rather than taking the attention away. Just show up! Engage in conversation with people that have different backgrounds than you! It is as easy as that,” said De La Rosa.
The gallery walk gave attendees the space to speak with the artists and with each other about the art and anything they chose to speak of. But the night didn’t end there. Part two of the event was an open mic, held in the basement of Bartlett.
The room was decorated with string lights and a big pride flag to evoke a very warm and inviting vibe. Anyone could perform but it first started with those who signed up in advance. Performances included poetry, spoken word, singing, and more. Overall the night was filled with support and a positive atmosphere.
The Stonewall Center is located in Crampton Hall in Southwest(265 Sunset Ave.) It is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.