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THE VISUAL TALENT PROGRAM

[ERA]’s visual talent program is an innovative approach to supporting the men who are in front of the camera and whose modeling makes our exhibits possible. Visual talent program participants go through 30 hours of class time where they learn about a range of social justice issues and engage in multiple activities including poetry readings, watching videos, journaling, identity exercises, and participant driven discussions.  Through a combination of financial support, leadership training, mentoring, and educational programming, the men who move through our visual talent program receive the holistic support that gay men of color deserve and emerge better able to work towards a more equitable and socially just world in their respective communities.


Basics:

  • The program is only open to gay men of Latin, African, Arab, Native, and Asian descent

  • Individuals are selected based on the needs of the exhibit that year and an application process

  • Each participant receives an award of $2,500

  • A cohort model is used in order to build relationships among the accepted applicants and staff

  • Accepted applicants participate in the program with varying degrees of intensity throughout a 12 month period

  • Accepted applicants will model for the fine art photography exhibit in addition to modeling for a range of commercial photography outlets such as Out Magazine or DNA Magazine


GOALS:

  • Increase the amount of art by gay men of color for gay men of color

  • Help financially benefit gay men of color who face tremendous economic barriers

  • Increase social consciousness in participants and help prepare them to be change makers in their communities

  • Increase opportunity and exposure for gay men of color who are working in the arts as visual talent

  • Provide space where gay men of color can engage in critical thinking and dialogue in a safe and welcoming environment

  • Increase gay men of color’s self esteem and combat internalized oppression

  • Help gay men of color gain access to professional and educational networks that will assist them

  • Transmit history that may have been withheld from them in mainstream educational institutions

  • Build community among gay men of color in a noncompetitive environment

  • Decrease destructive behavior by framing issues in a larger political context


Strategies:

  • Funding the creation of new fine art photography that centers on gay men of color and is produced by a gay male fine art photographer of color

  • Offering a generous stipend to each participant

  • Teaching a series of classes during the production of each exhibit that cover various social justice issues and themes with a strong emphasis on gay men of color and solidarity

  • Having the opening exhibit at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego and then coordinating a tour at comparable locations in Southern California. We also connect them with vast media exposure such as Out or DNA and work with top editorial photographers to get them in more media. Further, we ensure that they are interviewed so that they can speak from their experience and challenge certain racist and homophobic ideals

  • Having dedicated class time that is free of interruptions and by setting community agreements at the outset of the session

  • Immersing participants in the theory, art, and politics of their communities and discussing the social, historical, and political underpinnings of contemporary forms of oppression

  • Conducting at least 2 one on ones where we identify goals and challenges and then begin working with them to reach those goals and navigate those challenges. We also send them to certain events such as a gala so that they can connect with professionals there and we introduce them to key community stake holders

  • Reading poetry and watching certain videos. We also work with multiple historical timelines so that participants can gain a better understanding of their respective struggles and we give them recommended reading

  • Providing the same amount of funding to each participant and eliminating any sort of contest. We also have them participate in significant interactions with each other through the class discussions and encourage them to support each other as they model. We also hold a 2 day retreat where they can spend quality time together and increase their learning

  • Making the personal political and the political personal so that participants can begin approaching their behavior through a structural as well as personal lens which can often yield beneficial results