Meet Our 2023 Creator Grantees

Mars Wright

Project Title: "Trans Joy is Resistance"

Trans Joy is Resistance would be a 3 month long-running solo gallery show in the City of West Hollywood with an opening ceremony that features a Black Trans femme DJ “succubus” and two Black Transmasc musicians, Danni Casette and Cuee. The gallery would also host an artist talk by Edgar Fabian Frias who recently got their MFA at Berkeley and they will be interviewing Mars Wright on the importance of Trans Art. I would also like to host a few live painting sessions both virtually and in person as the show is up and those pieces will remain in the gallery after they are finished. Then one final ceremony and acknowledgment of Trans Joy by hosting a runways show featuring custom pieces that will be featured in the gallery.

My exhibition would be titled "Trans Joy is Resistance" and it's about how our joy and pleasure is actively fighting the systems that tell us not to exist. My distinct and unique voice comes from my experience learning how to love my transness in a society that tells me being trans is the foremost thing I should hate about myself. As an artist and designer in LA who came from extreme poverty, this money could dramatically change the trajectory of my career by giving me the opportunity to fully invest myself in a project dedicated to Trans Joy and uplifting the Trans Community.

The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Queer and Trans youth need to know life is worth living and my art is dedicated to sharing that message. Clothing as art was what saved my life when I was a Trans youth struggling to want to be alive.

The intersection of art, clothing, and gender euphoria unlocks the key to Trans Joy as Resistance. Fashion and Art have been at the forefront of our community, with the ballroom scene, the club kids, and more. We need Trans Joy now more than ever, with over 550 anti-trans bills and counting.

I want to help end these terrifyingly high rates of attempted suicide for my community through art, unconditional love, hope, and acceptance.

Partner Nonprofit:

Kenley Turner

Project Title: "Safe Spaces"

This is a two day art therapy workshop for 6-8 students. Participants are going to be LGBTQ older teens and young adults (ages 17-20) focusing on the concept of space. On day one students will create a diorama with their physical manifestation of what they think a safe space is. This can be a literal representation or symbolic. Students will create these dioramas exploring textures, colors, imagery, and found objects. On day two students will photograph their work. I (the guest artist) will edit their photography, have their work printed and framed so that they are able to take their safe space with them anywhere- wherever they go in life.

Funneling emotions into a tangible object accomplishes these three : 1. Creates a mirror; The maker is able to see what they are feeling in front of them in reality. 2. Makes it feel more precious and special- validating what the maker is sensing. 3. The maker is able to make decisions for themself about what they want in their space, and take ownership of that.

Why LGBTQ community? Many individuals that identify as LGBTQ have encountered discrimination in Texas as conservative bills increasingly encroach on life choices. The recent TX SB14 bill bans puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender kids. Statistics gathered from national surveys report an alarming effect on the mental health of LGBTQ youth. According to The Trevor Project, 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. More than ever, members of our LGBTQ community need safe spaces for support. This workshop intends to offer a safe environment and creative outlet for those that need it most. Statistics also reveal that supportive environments can help reduce the negative impacts on mental health experienced by LGBTQ youth.

Partner Nonprofit:

Kelsey Giroux

Project Title: "Expanding Project COLOR the Future"

“Juvenile (in)justice”

Recent Wyoming (WY) headlines encapsulate a portion of the story of the juvenile justice dilemma facing the state, presenting a snapshot of the crucial juvenile justice reform needed to address WY’s high juvenile incarceration rates. According to the most recent data in 2019 from the Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement report compiled by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, WY holds the third-highest juvenile incarceration rate in the nation.

CYD arts-community programs can develop a range of positive development assets such as bonding, resilience, cognitive, social and emotional well-being, self-motivation, spirituality, self-efficacy, positive identity, belief in the future, academics, vocational skills, confidence, connections to peers and adults, self-regulation, and a sense of community through developing arts-based protective frameworks. This process goes beyond just using art as a therapeutic process, it allows youth to express their feelings, cope with emotional and behavioral problems, heal from trauma and victimization, develop new skills, and improve strengths/assets they already possess. Notably, the positive benefits of the arts in addressing risk behaviors, particularly for rural and justice-involved youth, are associated with reduced delinquency, anger, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and suicidal thoughts or ideations. The arts are an effective means to help diverse youth with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, various learning styles, and varying degrees of cognitive, behavioral, or physical disabilities, to voice their feelings and become more actively engaged. CYD art programming in coordination with community programs can and does result in improved achievement to benefit underserved rural youth and reduce delinquency, recidivism, or other problem and high-risk behaviors for justice-involved youth of any age.

Partner Nonprofit:

Meet Our Judges

Alice Bybee

As a design leader with a background in both sociology and graphic design, Alice has been able to move fluidly between non-profit, consumer and global tech sectors providing design solutions, creative direction and brand management that produces results. Clients and companies include The Marine Mammal Center, the de Young Museum, the North Face, Levi's, Salesforce, Microsoft, Slack and more.

Alice served on the board of AIGA San Francisco (AIGA SF) where with her in-depth knowledge of design for social good, she co-created the AIGA SF Social Impact chair and cause/affect, a biennial graphic design competition celebrating the work of designers and organizations that set out to positively impact our society. She also went on to serve as Vice President and President of the board.

Alice received a BA in sociology from Brandeis University and a BFA in graphic design from the Academy of Art University. She is currently Director of Brand Design at Lattice.

Nic Cocco

Nic Cocco graduated in 2010 with a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of North Texas. Over the years she has studied and worked with various mediums from drawing, painting, ceramics, mixed media, interactive media, digital art, and graphic design. She served for over 5 years as an advisory board member for Scrap Denton, a creative reuse center that provided sustainable art education and art supplies to teachers and after school programs. Nic has worked with a variety of artists that promote a more sustainable future with their craft, the materials they use, and their processes.

Elise Gordon

Elise Gordon began her artistic pursuits early in life, with an apparent passion for painting, sculpting, and crafting of all sorts. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Oklahoma in 2017, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts emphasizing her painting and ceramics. Elise has shown her work in group and solo exhibitions in the Paseo Arts District of Oklahoma City and she has won numerous accolades for her striking and colorful surrealism. After college, Elise spent time honing her craft as a commission painter by independently marketing and selling her portraits and landscapes.

Since moving to California in 2021, Elise has embarked on a new career as an Interior Designer, She now spends her days crafting custom, large-scale homes for the elite clients of West Los Angeles. In her free time, Elise works as a graphic designer for a local L.A. brewery and the Pink Boots Society, which supports women and the LGBTQ+ community as leaders in the craft beer industry.

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