A nearly yearlong discussion about how to involve Glendale Unified students in the city’s annual Gay Pride Month festivities took the forms of art and literature featured at Crescenta Valley High School’s art gallery on Monday afternoon.
Forty-five pieces of artwork — including sculptures, paintings, drawings, poetry, statements and mixed media — represented student voices from several of the district’s elementary, middle and high schools.
The art showcases the district’s participation in “glendaleOUT,” defined by organizers as, “a multivenue LGBTQIA-based event in collaboration with local chapters of Gay Straight Alliance in the Glendale Unified School District.”
The gallery will be open until Friday, from 3 to 5 p.m. each day, on the school’s campus at 2900 Community Ave., La Crescenta.
“It’s important in our role as educators to provide our students with, ultimately, the empathy and support they need with the people they share the world with,” said Shant Sahakian, a Glendale Unified school board member. “This is a great example of our student artists using art to spread knowledge among their classmates and promote a more inclusive school environment.”
Last year, a series of groups and businesses, including Glendale-based ACE/121 Art Gallery, combined efforts to host the city’s first-ever Gay Pride Month celebration.
One element lacking, however, was student input.
Alicia Harris and David Platt, two Crescenta Valley High teachers, and Taline Arsenian, president of the Glendale Teachers Assn., were eating lunch together last year and came up with an idea.
“[We] wanted to see the galleries that were showcasing art during Pride last year, just to be supportive of the community,” said Harris, co-adviser of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance organization, along with Platt. “As we were at one of them, we thought, ‘Gosh, had this been a bit earlier, we would have told our students.”
Harris added, “Fast forward to the fall, I received a call form Grey [James] from the ACE/121 Gallery and, since about November last year, we’ve been working to get as much student participation as possible.”
For the past few months, Harris has been reaching out to Glendale Unified schools seeking student art submissions that culminated in the Crescenta Valley High gallery opening on Monday.
Many of the student entries will be moved after Friday to ACE/121, located at 121 N. Kenwood St., Glendale, and will be on display from June 1 to July 13.
There were entries from Lincoln and Mountain Avenue elementary schools, Roosevelt, Rosemont, Toll and Wilson middle schools as well as Clark Magnet, Crescenta Valley, Daily, Glendale and Hoover high schools.
“I was just really impressed by the volume of art that’s here,” said Ace121 director, Ben Evans. “I think it speaks so strongly to what we have to learn from the younger generation.”
Glendale High led the other schools, with 11 submissions, while Crescenta Valley High was next with eight.
One of the more prominent submissions was a mixed-media work depicting a door by Crescenta Valley High’s Lio Perez.
The senior painted his good friend coming out of a wooden door and walking onto a welcome mat with rays from a rainbow behind her.
“This is about understanding the transition to becoming uncloseted,” Perez said. “The barrier that a lot of closeted friends put in front of themselves, it’s so exhausting. Once you open that door, it’s just liberating.”
Rosemont eighth-grader Angie Robles wrote a one-page essay about such an experience.
“I call this coming in,” Robles said. “I don’t call this coming out because you’re really not changing anything about your lifestyle. You’re just changing a title that the world views you as.”