This weekend, Dennis and I had the pleasure of attending a fabulous event honoring one of our dearest friends, Jim Arter. What could be better than a big, gay, 80's prom honoring a truly inspirational, community (and personal) hero? I'll tell you -- getting to sit at the same table as the guest of honor!
The Columbus Gay Men's Chorus hosts an annual fundraising event called Forte, and this year they presented their inaugural Forte Award, which honors someone who represents the group's mission of combining artistic expression with social action. Well, they couldn't have chosen a better recipient than my friend Jim Arter. In addition to being an incredible artist himself (not to mention a foremost Judy Garland expert!), Jim works with the Greater Columbus Arts Council and pioneered an arts-based after school program for inner-city youth that became the pilot program for the award-winning Children of the Future. He also helped develop the "Art for Life" auction, a huge event in Columbus that helps raise funds for the Columbus Aids Task Force.
I met Jim the night of my opening at the Ohio Art League gallery when he introduced himself and very humbly asked me to autograph the postcard for my exhibit. Since then, he's been my biggest cheerleader, and has helped me make some important connections within the art community. My favorite Jim memory was when he welcomed us into his home and generously spent an evening sharing insights from his journey, which has taken him all over the world spreading his infectious love for the arts to everyone along the way.
The Forte event was great fun! Of course the gays came out in droves wearing 80's regalia that was fluffed and bedazzled to the max. Quite impressive! They had a silent auction (to which I donated some prints), and we enjoyed a fantastic meal, a performance by Vox (an ensemble from the Columbus Gay Men's Chorus), and then the presentation of Jim's award. His speech was really moving -- especially when he talked about his first experience being on OSU's campus (which was also the location for this event) forty two years prior. Circumstances were a bit different then. At that time, he was confined to the lock-down psychiatric unit learning to cope with being gay because homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Before then, he didn't even know any other GLBT people. To quote his speech, "I thought there was me and maybe Liberace, but he was probably just artistic."
It was quite profound to be there and witness a room full of gay men honoring him forty two years later for having such a profound impact on our community. I know he's made a tremendous impression on me, and I'm so grateful for his friendship, encouragement, and inspiration. Congratulations, Jim! Judy would be proud!
This is a photo of me with Bryan Knicely, President of the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and his new Batmobama print courtesy of the silent auction.
And here's a link to see all of my photos from the Forte Event: www.flickr.com/photos/paulysworld/sets/72157618290032185/