Many people in the LGBTQ community are concerned about how our legal rights and protections will change under the new presidential administration. With this in mind, New York's Museum of Modern Art has created an LGBTQ safe space for teens and allies directly in the museum. It's more important than ever to create safe spaces for queer people and allies to gather and connect; the same is true for spaces that celebrate art and creativity. MoMA is filling that need
Called the Open Art Space (OAS), MoMA's free drop-in program is geared toward queer teens and allies who are interested in studying art, making art, or art history. OAS will offer a weekly meeting facilitated by artist Mark Joshua Epstein, but the program description promises that the emphasis will be on what teens bring to the table. In addition to meetings, the OAS will offer guided talks in the museum and lectures from working artists. Most importantly, it offers a space for queer and questioning youth to meet people their own age to whom they can relate.
Epstein explained in an interview with the Huffington Post that the goal of OAS is to "offer space for teens to explore their own identities as well as the opportunity to operate within a community.”
To make the space additionally accessible, OAS offers the teens free food and free Metrocards, making it friendly for youth who are low-income or lack other transportation options.
Although it's of course important for anyone to have safe spaces where they can connect with others, it's especially important for LGBTQ youth. Much of established queer culture is geared toward adults: Gay bars, drag shows, the club scene, and so on and so forth all larger cater to people who are over the age of 21. For teens, this can feel isolating, especially if their school lacks a Gay Straight Alliance or if there isn't a Pride Center in their local community.
While younger generations tend to be more and more accepting, it is still true that LGBTQ youth face higher rates of bullying and harassment than their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Queer youth also suffer from higher rates of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Being able to form a community with other kids to whom you can relate is all the more important for these reasons.
As Epstein told the Huffington Post, "We endeavor to create a space where LGBTQ teens feel heard, supported, and recognized and we hope they can take that feeling of support with them through their daily lives." Having safe spaces specifically for you doesn't solve all of the problems, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.