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Rainbow community gives colour to University art exhibition

Contemporary art can act as a powerful vehicle to address complex issues in an applied and informed way that words cannot.

Art has the ability to unify and strengthen – and this is certainly the case for the exhibition It’s Ok to be Me, opening at the University of Southern Queensland this week.

The exhibition, which is an extension of one currently showing at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art gallery, is a physical platform where local LGBTQI+ voices can be centred, amplified and celebrated.

It will include pieces from international artist Shannon Novak, whose work consists of socially engaged and collaborative paintings, photography, sculpture and curatorial practices.

Mr Novak is also the founder of the Safe Space Alliance, a global LGBTQI+ led non-profit organisation which helps people identify, navigate, and create safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community.

“I see myself as a bridge between worlds - connecting people and organisations to enable and make space for local LGBTQI+ voices to be heard,” Mr Novak said.

“Having little or no visibility or presence in our archives and histories can lead to LGBTQI+ people feeling invisible, erased, not important or valid – which can drive poor mental health outcomes.

“This exhibition seeks to do the exact opposite and help build visibility and presence upward.

“I think it’s wonderful the university is supporting this exhibition and I’m, feeling hopeful and excited about the potential ongoing positive possibilities for the local LGBTQI+ community.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a community project, titled Dear Toowoomba…, where members of the public are encouraged to write, draw or mark a message for the wall installation, as well as a range of other public workshops and events.

Leading this partnership with Shannon Novak are University of Southern Queensland’s Associate Professor Amy Mullens, Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz, Brodie Taylor, and Dr Annette Brömdal.

Associate Professor Mullens said detailed assessment and community participation had gone into forming the project.

“We’re excited to be able to bring this exhibition to the University after working on it for so long,” Associate Professor Mullens said.

“We’re hoping this event will effectively raise awareness regarding the unique strengths and challenges experienced by members of rainbow communities, using art as a medium.

“It will also provide a useful template for bridging art with science to create positive changes within society between seemingly disparate yet inter-connected groups.”

“Contemporary art can act as a powerful vehicle to address complex issues in an applied and informed way that words cannot,” Associate Professor Batorowicz said.

“That is, artistic representations resonate with audiences through experiential as well as conceptual engagement, as an open-ended inquiry that prompts questioning from the viewer.

“In this way, art can lead to authentic transformation among communities.”

The It’s Ok to be Me exhibition will run from March 21 to April 29 at the University gallery in B Block.

Media Alert

  • What: Official opening of the It’s Ok to be Me exhibition
  • When: 5pm Monday, March 21
  • Where: B Block, The University of Southern Queensland
three people in an art gallery
University of Southern Queensland art curator Brodie Taylor, Dr Annette Brömdal and Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz.