‘Love Notes’ initiative aims to support LGBTQIA+ youth through art and affirmation
Project emphasizes positivity, hope and stronger community ties
One local artist’s effort to show support for LGBTQIA+ youth in the Roaring Fork Valley through notes of affirmation has “snowballed” into a project with an investment of resources and of heart from dozens of individuals and organizations between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
“Love Notes,” an initiative launched by lead artist Brijetta Waller, will position 16 student-designed boxes at businesses and community hubs throughout the valley from Feb. 12-20 where all are welcome and encouraged to write notes of encouragement and advice for youth who identify as LGBTQIA+.
“I know that our valley community is supportive, but I wanted that support to be explicit and affirming and clear, so that you can really feel the love,” Waller said.
The public kickoff for the project takes place in Carbondale on Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in conjunction with a “Light the Night With Love” event co-produced by Carbondale Arts and KDNK Community Radio. A large-scale Love Notes art installation by artists Esther Macy Nooner and Zakriya Rabani also will be on display there; the piece moves to the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen beginning Feb. 14.
Waller hopes to collect upward of 1,000 notes total; come March 14, the submissions will be turned into a digital mosaic to be displayed at local schools and public libraries, with the timing linked to LGBTQIA+ Health Awareness Week in mid-March.
Around that time, libraries in all three Roaring Fork Valley counties also will host a virtual parent and community education event.
“My work has always been around love, and I wanted there to be a venue for the community to communicate and connect with youth, but that’s not an easy thing to do,” Waller said. “So I wanted to create a way that we could create a conversation between the youth and community, and then the boxes became a vehicle to the conversation.”
It was students who got to design those vehicles for conversation: participants at eight public middle and high schools in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs worked with local artists and community mentors during workshops in January.
Anderson Ranch artists then built the boxes based on those designs. Each school contributed two designs for a total of 16 boxes to be installed at businesses and community hubs valley-wide.
Funding for Love Notes comes from a Colorado Creative Industries grant, the National Endowment for the Arts, Anderson Ranch Arts Center and Carbondale Arts. The network of support goes well beyond finances, too, by the count of dozens of partners, schools and artists listed in a news release about the project.
“It just snowballed,” Waller said. “Every single organization I spoke with said, ‘Well, what more can we do?'”
Data from a 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey is a testament to the need for support and affirmation for LGBTQIA+ youth, who struggle with mental health at what Waller found to be “staggering” rates. The survey reported 42% of students in Colorado who identified as LGBTQIA+ reported considering suicide and 20.7% reported attempting suicide at least once in the same time period.
Results from the 2021 survey isn’t available yet, but the broad consensus from mental health professionals and advocates is that isolation due to the pandemic has exacerbated those challenges.
“I was shocked, and that catalyzed me to think about what I can do, and because I’m an artist, because I work traditionally kind of about bringing community together and building bridges, I thought of this idea for Love Notes,” Waller said.
Waller hopes to emphasize that the Love Notes project — though spurred by dire straits — is one centered on finding a path forward through positivity and hope.
“While I was moved to start this project due to my concerns over mental health challenges facing LGBTQIA+ youth during the pandemic, I chose with intention to create a positive, affirming and hopeful project that could move us away from worry and fear and towards positivity, inclusion, and celebration of LGBTQIA+ youth and their unique voices,” Waller wrote in a followup email.
“I believe art has the power to bring that hope and strength forward and make it visible,” she added.
Aspen: Pitkin County Library, Red Brick Center for the Arts, Local Coffee House
Snowmass Village: Taster’s Pizza
Basalt: The Art Base, Basalt Regional Library, The Arts Center at Willits, Alpine Bank
Carbondale: Carbondale Branch Library, The Launchpad, True Nature Healing Arts, Bonfire Coffee
Glenwood Springs: Glenwood Springs Recreation Center, Glenwood Springs Branch Library, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, Bluebird Cafe
Other community partners include the valley-wide organizations Aspen Out, PFLAG and Gay for Good.
For more information on Love Notes, visit LoveNotesRFV.com.