The Visual Arts Forum (VAF), affiliated with the School of Art and Design (SOAD), donates 32 books written by queer artists to the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center at the University of Carolina is September 16 for all students who may be interested in learning more about the arts from queer artists.
Books donated include “Queer X Design” by Andy Campbell, “Manhattan Sunday” by Richard Renaldi and “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman” by Jeffreen M. Hayes.
VAF graduate student and co-chair Nicholas Hesson said VAF is the umbrella organization that oversees the organizational aspects of SOAD’s 13 guilds. Hesson said they manage guild events and budgets.
“We’re really the only organization that gets the money and the students can decide how it’s used, it’s really unique in the wide array of all the other organizations here,” Hesson said.
The VAF, Hesson said, always sets aside money for its sponsored events. He said they hold open submissions, which means guilds can suggest event ideas and vote on events they like.
Hesson said Anthony Naimo, a graduate student and member of the metal guild, suggested the idea of a book donation during one of the open proposals. All of the graduate students, Hesson said, came together to craft a formal proposal to show to the LGBTQ Center’s senior associate director, Mark Rasdorf.
“With this proposal, I met Mark (Rasdorf) and tried to see what our possibilities were for it to start and he was completely on board,” Hesson said.
Michael Gaines, graduate student and co-chair of VAF, said there was a while before he became co-chair, VAF had the funds for the donation, but a lot of books were put out of stock due to the pandemic. As a result, Gaines said, the VAF decided not to donate until they had all the books.
Gaines said while waiting for the books, they decided to add more to the collection. He said there were a lot of new perspectives on the books to add.
“It was great because new voices came in and brought new artists to the attention for us so we could really expand the collection,” Gaines said.
One of the main reasons VAF donated the books, Gaines said, was that SOAD did not have its own library. Additionally, the donation allows the books to be viewed by people who aren’t necessarily involved with SOAD, Gaines said. He said it gives SOAD a chance to expose more people to the artists than the students otherwise would have seen.
The VAF tried to be as inclusive and diverse as possible, Gaines said. He said they reached out to other graduate students to get their input on which artists to include in the collection.
“For example, I know a lot of queer photographers, Kidd knows a lot of queer sculptors, Anthony and Nicholas know a lot of queer blacksmiths. We really tried to reach out and hit all of our bases,” Gaines said.
VAF graduate student and outreach specialist Karena “Kidd” Graves said she was tasked with creating book panels to enter donated books. That would help people know it was a donation from the visual arts forum, Graves said.
The donation, Graves said, will give people unfamiliar with queer artists the opportunity to learn more about them. She said the books will also be a valuable source for those interested in the arts.
“As a queer and queer-identifying person, I think it’s important to get involved in the community and find ways to fund organizations like this that might not have access to certain things. I love being part of the process,” Graves said.