OUT art exhibit features local LGBTQIA+ artists


Octagon Center for the Arts

Octagon Center is featuring local artists in an exhibit called OUT this month featuring LGBTQIA+ experiences in communities.

The Octagon Center for the Arts is featuring “OUT,” an exhibit featuring the work of seven local LGBTQIA+ artists scattered throughout Ames’ downtown community.

The prompt for the exhibit focuses on identifying barriers and opportunities for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to connect, find authenticity and belong in their communities, according to the exhibit description from the Octagon Center for the Arts website.

Featured artists include Charlie Esker, Jennifer Leatherby, Jameson Malone, Lane Maxson, Sasha Phillips, Piper Smith and Ashley Vance.

The exhibit began Sept. 1 and will be available for viewing until Sept. 30. Created by Nancy Gebhart and juried by AJ Castle, the exhibit is sponsored by the Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity and the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success.

The goals behind the featured artwork vary. For some, the pieces serve the purpose of validating experiences, and for others, art functions as a bridge for understanding between different communities.

“Often, queer people’s stories get told for them,” Charlie Esker, an Iowa State graduate and full-time artist, said in a statement. “Whether it be by their families or by the media, queer people hardly get a narratory role when it comes to our own struggles. My art is my way of telling my story and working to heal my trauma through the artistic process.” 

Esker said being a queer artist with connections to Ames led them to apply to be part of the exhibit. The biggest thing Esker wants people to take away from their piece is queer joy. 

“I think I try to embody that in a lot of my work, especially this one,” Esker said. “It’s really a celebration of my queer family and just queer people in general, so I want people to walk away with that sense of pride, joy and resilience and awe at the diversity and amazingness of the queer community.”

As a means of discovering and sharing local stories with the community, the exhibit ventures into spaces beyond the galleries of the Octagon.

The chosen artwork, scattered throughout downtown Ames, can be found at the Ames History Museum, Ames Public Library, Back Alley House Plants, Dog-Eared Books, Heroic Ink, Little Woods Herbal and London Underground.

Jameson Malone shared in an artist statement that hardships are often faced alone, but artwork can reflect what others in the community feel as well. 

“The community is meant to be an arching phrase for both the [LGBTQIA+ and larger community],” Malone said. “This show centers LGBTQIA+ artists and, additionally, delivers a wider range of community perspectives due to our intersectional similarities and differences.”

Malone wants those who view the piece to consider it as a whole but make space to give attention to the finer details. 

“I mainly hope people have fun seeing this piece, as well as the whole exhibition filled with many talented artists,” Malone said. 

To learn more about the exhibit locations and times, visit the Octagon Art Center website.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Sept. 11 and was taken down on Sept. 12 pending further reporting. It is now published with the responses from the featured artists.