On a breezy Thursday afternoon, several gay couples sat on wooden benches outside of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” exhibit. They were there for “Love-In,” a “celebration of empathy and queer affection.”
UT’s Queer Graduate Student Alliance hosted Love-In, an event partly organized as a response to recent violence experienced by queer people on Fourth Street in Downtown Austin, and meant to counter everyday scrutiny and stigma, alliance director Nel Yang said.
“This event felt right for those ‘negative’ reasons, but it also felt right as a gesture of celebration, education, resistance and remembrance,” said Yang, an anthropology graduate student in an email.
Kelly, who designed the exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art, was gay and a student of the minimalist and abstract art movement in the mid-twentieth century, according to his obituary in “The New Yorker.”
“Kelly designed it as a sort of meditation on loving kindness, and I think the piece really exudes that sort of air,” Yang said. “It seemed perfect once we thought of it, and the idea was hard to let go of after that.”
Alliance member Aaron Sessions said a successful event includes LGBTQ students visibly and comfortably gathering on campus. He said this event accomplished that.
“Fear and internalized homophobia keep many people in our community from comfortably expressing PDA with their partners,” said Sessions, a community and regional planning graduate student, in an email. “I hope this event will help destigmatize queer PDA for both those participating and those observing.”
The couples were provided “36 Questions that Lead to Love” and were encouraged to interact with each other. Yang said the event was meant to exercise empathy.
“That is what I want participants and witnesses to walk away with: that there is a kind of love that though it may be unfamiliar, is abundant and available elsewhere,” Yang said.
Alfredo Guerrero, who attended the event with his boyfriend, said he had never been to an event that encouraged LGBTQ affection to be more visible.
Guerrero said he appreciated the space created for queer love, but would have preferred the event to be open to a more general audience.
“You don’t need to specifically have a space for one designated group,” Guerrero said. “I think we just need to blend in.”