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On Sept. 22, 2010, Tyler Clementi jumped to his death off New York’s George Washington Bridge. The abuse and humiliation the Rutgers University freshman faced because of his homosexuality brought about his tragic end. Unfortunately, this overwhelming despair is not unusual among homosexual youth.

The recent wave of suicides motivated Becky Nahom, a sophomore art student, to show struggling teens that homosexuality is not a death sentence with her exhibition “It Gets Better.”

Nahom drew from the past to create a gallery that would address this epidemic to the community. “It Gets Better” is an interactive exhibition educating viewers about the harassment of gay youth and potential resulting suicides.

The context of the exhibit dates back to 1934, when Paul Cadmus’ painting “The Fleet’s In!” was ripped from the walls of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. The public responded with hostility to Cadmus’ portrayal of homosexual navy personnel.

Cadmus then explored these prejudices thematically in his painting “Playground,” in which homosexual teens are seen socializing in a schoolyard.

Nahom’s exhibit at the ASU Step Gallery, which ran from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, allowed the public to confront this issue head-on. Nahom used live models to pose in front of Cadmus’ projected painting.

“The models were very excited to participate in this show,” she said. “All of them were volunteers and happy to help out for such a great cause. Some of them were friends, friends of friends, and some were from the LGBTQ Coalition on campus. Some were straight, some were gay, but they all wanted to help me spread equality on the ASU campus.”

Supplies were provided for the audience/artists to encourage them to create their own inspired artwork and contribute to the showcase. The audience’s drawings were hung proudly on the walls to counter the intolerant treatment of Cadmus’ artwork.

Volunteer model Evan Balbona also holds strong and personal opinions regarding the stigmas and treatment of homosexuals in society.

“I definitely feel that this is an issue that needs more discussion and attention in the vein of positive media coverage,” he said. “The more gay students are sent the message that they shouldn’t be ashamed to be who they are, the sooner the problem of teenage suicides will be remedied.”

The exhibit was presented in support of The Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.

Reflecting on the success of her gallery showing, Nahom said, “I think a lot of people were glad to see someone trying to create a different kind of gallery experience with lots of layers.”

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